Emma Gilmour has taken the wraps off the Subaru Impreza that she will use in this year’s national rally championship and Rally New Zealand 2010
The new car, a current-model Impreza WRX STI hatch, replaces the previous-model Impreza sedan that Gilmour has used in national competition for the past three seasons. First used by Gilmour’s 2009 team mate Cody Crocker to win last year’s Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, the car has been completely stripped down and re-built for Gilmour to rally in 2010.
Dunedin born-and-bred Gilmour’s primary aim this season is to use the car to win the five-round New Zealand Rally Championship, which opens with the 9-11 April Otago Rally, and finishes with the Wairarapa Rally in September. As part of that campaign she will also contest the country’s premier international motor sport event – Rally New Zealand – in mid-May, competing in the production class world rally championship (PWRC) section of the event.
“While I have led rounds of the national championship before, I have yet to win one outright,” says Gilmour. “2010 is the year I am aiming to change all that and, through doing so, become the first woman to win a New Zealand national rally, and the first to win our national championship too.
“Similarly, while I have finished second Kiwi on Rally New Zealand twice before, I have yet to take the coveted prize for being the first local across the finish ramp.”
The awarding of a wild card entry into the PWRC section of the event has added a boost to her bid for a top showing on Rally NZ.
“It gives me an opportunity to match myself directly against the very best production class drivers in the world,” she explains. “I’ll be seeded right amongst them rather than in a separate section of the rally: that’s a real buzz from a driver’s point of view and also great for my profile, since it places me much further up the field, where public and media interest is higher.”
Gilmour will start this season with a new-found confidence that comes on the back of a superb 2009 rally season in which she finished runner-up in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (the top result by a woman in international rallying in 2009) and third in the New Zealand series as well.
“2009 was a very busy year and the experience I gained from so much rallying was fantastic,” she says. “However it was always a challenge switching between the championships, using completely different cars, and rallying in very different conditions.
“This year the, single point of focus is New Zealand.”
The new car, an established team, and continued support from key sponsors are the other elements that Gilmour believes are crucial underpinnings for the year ahead.
“My previous car has been great, but after driving the new-model Impreza in Asia-Pacific rounds, I realised it was time to update to keep a competitive edge in the New Zealand championship. What we have with the new car is a machine that has proven itself by winning a major international series, and has now been completely refreshed for the year ahead. Though it looks pristine at today’s launch, I was out testing yesterday and am really excited by the way the car is performing.
“It’s nice too that the car’s first rally of 2010 will be at Otago. Though I’m based up north for now, Dunedin is my home town and Otago my home rally, and the one on which I’ve given my best performances in past championships."
The car’s re-build has been completed by Gilmour’s team, with technical input from Subaru Japan’s competition division, STI, and help from Kent Thompson with the engine. The car also gets a striking new colour scheme, courtesy of young graphic designer Andrew Stewart.