Emma Gilmour will commence the busiest rally programme of her career next weekend, when she takes her Subaru Impreza STI across the start ramp for the 4-5 April Hawke’s Bay Rally. The rally is the opening round of this year’s Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship and the first of ten national and international championship events Gilmour will contest between now and November.
Five of those events comprise this year’s New Zealand series while one of those rounds – the Whangarei Rally – is also part of Gilmour’s six-event campaign for the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. “That means that from April through to November I will be contesting at least one rally a month, and sometimes two,” says Gilmour. “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, who was born and bred in Dunedin, but is now based in Hamilton, says that the double programme should also help ensure that her New Zealand championship car is delivering its best in terms of performance. “I have already had the benefit of back-to-back testing with the brand new Subaru Impreza STI, I will be driving in the Asia-Pacific Series and my New Zealand championship car, which is the same Impreza I drove in 2008,” she explains. “Following that testing we have made significant improvements to the Vantage Aluminium Joinery Subaru that we will be using in the NZ Rally Championship. We have confirmed those changes with a shakedown on a local rally sprint event this past weekend, so I am quietly confident that I will be on the pace from the start of the season.”
Gilmour says she has set her sights on stage wins and regular top-three podium results on her home championship, which she is contesting for the sixth time. Her best overall result to date has been second overall on an event (scored at Otago in 2007), and she makes no secret of her desire to go one better than that.
“Of course an outright win is something I’ll be aiming for this season,” she says. “But this weekend 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 for the Hawke’s Bay, Gilmour expects the pace to be quick from the outset. She also anticipates that the roads themselves will pose some special challenges.