Leading Kiwi rally driver Emma Gilmour will have a female co-driver when the Repco Rally New Zealand begins on August 29.
Experienced British navigator Claire Mole will join Gilmour in the Vantage Aluminium Joinery Subaru Impreza WRX STi.
They have teamed previously in a Ford Fiesta in the 2006 Finnish and British rounds of the WRC.
“Claire did a great job of guiding me through rallying in her part of the world, and now it’s my chance to return the favour from the driver’s seat,’ says Gilmour.
“Our time together in Finland was a particular blast with some great stage times along the way, and that’s the sort of form we’re aiming to show as we team up again.”
Mole will be making her 14th WRC start (her first outside of Europe); it’s Gilmour’s 11th appearance on a round of the WRC.
Despite living on opposite sides of the world, the women share a similar background in rallying, having become involved – firstly as co-drivers – through a strong family interest in the sport.
But though Gilmour soon switched to driving, Mole developed her career as a co-driver alongside such drivers as former British Champion, Gwyndaf Evans and former world ladies champion, Louise Aitken-Walker.
Though the so-called ladies prize (awarded to all-female combinations of driver and co driver) was a coveted trophy in rallying in years’ gone by, it’s not one Gilmour has ever given much thought for.
“My aim has always been to compete with, and hopefully beat, the best of my male rivals,” she says. “Having Claire alongside certainly provides a point of difference, but it won’t change my approach to the rally in any way.
“With the event counting towards our national series it’s very much business as usual in terms of my Kiwi rivals, but it’s also a round of the Production World Rally Championship [PWRC], which adds in a further 25 overseas drivers in cars that are broadly the same as ours.”
Though she relishes the chance to test herself against the visiting drivers, Gilmour also joins other top locals in considering finishing first New Zealander as the most coveted prize.
“I managed to claim second place in the dash for local honours on Rally NZ back in 2005, so going one better than that is certainly something to aim for,” she says. “History has shown it’s not something you can really plan for, though. You just have to drive as hard as you feel able and see how things unfold around you.”