Motorsport: Emma Gilmour on a quest to be the best
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After year in US Gilmour wants NZ rally title
New Zealand rally driver Emma Gilmour has been ranked as the world's top female driver, although by her own admission, 2014 wasn't her finest year.
But she is aiming to return to top form this season.
Gilmour, from Dunedin, competed in only a few rounds of the New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) last year as she was asked by Rhys Millen to join his Hyundai Team in the US-based Red Bull Global Rally Cross series.
She became the first woman to enter the championship, lining up with the likes of Scott Speed, Nelson Piquet jnr, Ken Block and Travis Pastrana.
The series, like her partial NZRC campaign, was fraught with mechanical issues and Gilmour had to rapidly adapt to driving solo and being jammed in among other drivers all fighting for the same spot.
Although it was a great experience, Gilmour won't be returning to America this year. Instead, she'll be concentrating on getting that elusive NZRC trophy on her shelf at home.
"I've come second in the New Zealand championship three times now and I'm determined to win a championship, so this year we're concentrating on that," said Gilmour.
"I'm not doing the Rally Cross as Hyundai pulled the pin on Rhys this year. I could have tried to find the funding - and that's not to say I won't in the future - but I wanted to focus on New Zealand this year.
"If I do go back I want to be in a competitive car. It was a bit of an exercise in frustration last year with mechanical problems. It made a tough learning curve even tougher.
"Still, it's an exciting form of motor racing and when I lined up on the grid I had to pinch myself as it was like a video game. It was nuts with a high calibre of drivers.
"It was an amazing opportunity and I learned a few things towards the end - like get an experienced spotter. That was a huge difference and I didn't know what I'd been missing. It was like having another pair of eyes in the car, which made things much better."
Gilmour raced a Suzuki Swift-based car in last year's NZRC and while the car showed great pace at times, it was prone to attacks from the mechanical gremlins. It wasn't until the end of the season that her crew discovered the head gasket was causing all the problems.
Typical of 2014 for Gilmour, when the car was firing on all cylinders, she made an error ending her season upside down in a ditch.
"We'll be doing it [NZRC] in the Suzuki again and we've made some improvements since last year. Last year we didn't have enough time to test the new car and get everything sorted out properly.
"We've done a lot of kilometres in the off-season, and I'm quietly confident we'll do all right," she said.
With decent testing, lots of gravel bashing and a new gearbox and gearbox ratios - along with numerous other tweaks to the car - Gilmour will take the fight to defending champion Richard Mason and others.
"You always need a bit of luck in motorsport and now we've had a chance to do a lot of kilometres to get the suspension and geometry of the car sorted to really suit my driving style, we should have a good season.
"We're on for the whole championship and it's about time we became number one - I'm tired of being the bridesmaid," she said.
The opening round of the New Zealand championship is at the International Rally of Whangarei, April 17-19, which is also the opening round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
The race has been revamped this year for the ninth running of the event, with a Super Stage starting the event under lights on Friday night. Some of the new roads introduced last year will again challenge the drivers, as will the revised Ruapekapeka layout and new stages at Helena Bay, Waiotira and Otuhi.
Previous winners of the rally have included production world rally champion Hayden Paddon, Finn Essapekki Lappi, Indian Gaurav Gill and Australians Chris Atkins and Cody Crocker.
"I have a regular day job, but my dream has always been to become a professional driver somewhere in the world," said Gilmour.
"I'm looking forward to Whangarei and getting my championship started and we'll see what the year brings. My door's always open to new opportunities."
New Zealand Rally Championship 2015
International Rally of Whangarei April 17-19
Rally of Otago May 9-10
Canterbury Rally May 30-31
Gisborne RallyJune 27
Rally of Coromandel August 22
Rally Wairarapa October 3