Emma Gilmour begins a hectic year’s rallying when she starts the New Zealand championship-opening Hawke’s Bay Rally on April 4-5
It’s the first of 10 rallies the Hamilton-based driver will contest between April and November. Five are New Zealand series counters and the other six, including the Whangarei Rally in June (which doubles as an NZ series round) are Asia-Pacific Rally Championship events.
“From April through to November, I’ll be contesting at least one rally a month, and sometimes two,” she says. “While it’s going to be a pretty hectic schedule, the fact that I am rallying so often should be ideal for keeping my driving sharp and focused.”
Gilmour says the double programme should also help ensure that her New Zealand championship Subaru Impreza WRX STi is delivering its best.
“I’ve already had the benefit of back-to-back testing with the brand new Subaru Impreza STi I’ll be driving in the Asia-Pacific Series and my New Zealand championship car, which is the same Impreza I drove in 2008.
“Following that testing we have made significant improvements to the Vantage Aluminium Joinery Subaru that we’ll be using in the NZ Rally Championship.
“We confirmed those changes with a shakedown on a local rallysprint event this past weekend, so I’m quietly confident that I’ll be on the pace from the start of the season.”
Gilmour has set her sights on stage wins and regular top-three podium results in the NZ series which she’s contesting for the sixth time. Her best overall result to date has been second in Otago in 2007 but she wants to start winning.
“Of course an outright win is something I’ll be aiming for this season, but (in Hawke’s Bay) I’m also looking for a strong championship start, and to build my form for the Asia-Pacific rounds.
“If that means I have to take a somewhat tactical approach then so be it.”
With defending champion Hayden Paddon and former champions Richard Mason and Chris West all confirmed starters in Hawke’s Bay, Gilmour expects the pace to be quick from the outset.
And she anticipates that the roads themselves will pose some special challenges.
“Last year the rally was held in July, and the second day had to be cancelled due to a storm that caused massive landslips.
“Hopefully conditions will be drier and firmer with this year’s event running in April, but that means it could be dusty too.
“There will be another challenge too in that many of the stages are running in the opposite direction to recent years.”