Gilmour ready for 2011 rally opener
After a successful pre-season test of her Subaru Impreza WRX STi, Emma Gilmour is raring to go in the 2011 New Zealand Rally Championship.
The five-round series opens with her home event – the Drivesouth Rally
of Otago – this Friday through Sunday, and after finishing third in the
2009 championship and runner-up last year, Gilmour has her sights set on
another top result in 2011.
“We have lifted our game in each of the past two years, and it’s time to
do so again,” says Gilmour. “Ours is one of the most competitive
national championships in the world, so if you don’t spend the months
between seasons working out how to get that little bit extra from
yourself and your car, you end up going backwards.”
After starting 2010 with a new car, Gilmour is sticking with proven
machinery for 2011. The membership of the Vantage Subaru Rally Team –
including her fiancée Glenn Macneall as co-driver – also carries over
“Last year we were quick throughout the season, but having started with a
new car we had to spend a lot of time developing it along the way,” she
says. “We have carried out some further development work over the
summer, and after testing last month now have the car going better than
ever before, and handling very much the way I like it.”
“I am aiming, again, to be on rally-winning pace. This weekend we will
see if all the hard yards the team and I have put into preparing for the
year pays off.”
Gilmour is seeded third for the Otago event, behind 2010 Otago winner
and defending national champion Dean Sumner (Mitsubishi) and former
champion and current production world championship driver Hayden Paddon.
Former national champions and Otago winners Chris West (Mitsubishi) and
Richard Mason (Subaru) complete the top five.
Otago, which is internationally known for the incredible variety of its
rallying roads, will throw a new challenge at competitors on the Friday,
when the rally opens with three night-time rally stages.
“The first rally stage I ever watched was at night in Otago and I'll
never forget standing in the pitch black hearing the 'popping and
banging' of Joe McAndrew’s Subaru Legacy getting louder and louder until
finally the road lit up in front of us and Joe whizzed past in a flurry
of flying gravel,” Gilmour recalls. “It was so cool."
“However, while I have been a spectator at night, actually driving flat
out in the dark will be a new experience both for myself, and for many
others, in the national championship field.”
After Friday’s three night stages just south and west of Dunedin, the
focus of the event shifts to the former goldfields town of Lawrence for
four stages on Saturday morning. After the rally’s longest stage – a 48
km test through Berwick Forest – the opening leg of the event concludes
with the popular Anzac Avenue tarmac superspecial, which is located just
a couple of hundred metres from Dunedin’s new rugby stadium.
Sunday’s second leg includes repeats of some stages used on the Friday
and Saturday, as well as three further stages, all in the hills on
either side of the Taieri Plains. The rally is scheduled to finish at
Dunedin’s historic Railway Station at 2.35pm.
“It’s a typically challenging mix of Otago rally roads, some of which
are fast, flowing and cresty, others that are more traditional forestry
stages, and yet others which are very tight and twisty.”
Vantage Aluminium Joinery continues its long-standing association with
Gilmour as lead commercial partner for the team, with Subaru and
SuperCharge playing key supporting roles. Hella and The Rock FM radio
station have also joined the team as sponsors, while Pirelli, Metalman,
Castrol, Wurth, QBE, PPG, Yamaha and Interislander maintain their