Emma Gilmour has swapped the warmth of Barbados for the wintery, Lone Star Rally of Canterbury dark this weekend, as she prepares her Suzuki Swift Maxi for the event’s two opening night stages on Saturday.
Emma returned from competing in 30degC at the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship’s opening round on the Caribbean Island late last week, to find her Dunedin team hard at work repairing the engine damage her Suzuki sustained late in the Rally of Otago, while she was in second place overall.
She proved at her home event earlier this month that her radical home-built rally car is capable of running hot on national championship leader Richard Mason’s heels and achieved top five stage times all the way through to stage 12.
This weekend’s third round of the 2014 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ, will see her and Australian co-driver Ben Atkinson consolidating and increasing the Suzuki’s speed potential.
“I want to just continue on from Otago and keep improving the car’s handling and pace, so I can challenge Richard’s [Mason’s] stage times,” Emma says.
She and Ben will head west of Rangiora on Saturday evening with Hella head lights mounted on the front of the Suzuki, illuminating their way.
“I enjoy night stages and have done a few now over the years. It is a fun way to start the event and perhaps separate out the field a bit too,” Emma says.
Canterbury was added to the national calendar in 2013 but this year’s 153km of special stage competition is considerably different due to the unavailability of Ashley Forest after recent wind damage. The route has been revised and now consists of two forest stages run twice and four public road stages in the North Canterbury area.
Emma is looking forward to the longer stages on farm roads, near Cheviot on Sunday, where she will be able to really get her 400hp Suzuki Maxi charging.
The Lone Star Rally of Canterbury in association with Joes Garage commences with a rally show and ceremonial start from the Palms Shopping Mall in Shirley on Saturday afternoon. Crews then head to the Okuku Forest, west of Rangiora for two night stages on demanding forest roads in the foothills.
Sunday’s competition heads as far north as Cheviot for a further six stages. A total of 153 kilometres of competition will be covered before the victory celebrations on the finish ramp will be held from 4.15pm back at the Palms Shopping Mall.