The blistering stage times posted by Emma Gilmour in her Vantage Windows and Doors Suzuki Swift AP4 in the first stages of the season-opening Otago Rally spoke for themselves.
Running second behind Hayden Paddon, hopes were running high in Gilmour’s home rally town for a long awaited podium finish, when bad luck ended her day in just the third stage of the first leg.
The Dunedin driver, with Malcolm Peden in the co-driver’s seat, was sidelined on the monster 50km Manuka Hill stage by a freak sensor issue causing throttle control problems.
“It was just so disappointing to have run the car all last year without any problems. Then for this to happen on my home event and the New Zealand Rally Championship’s opening round, it’s just heart breaking because we know how fast we can be,” Emma says.
After Emma’s team, run by Choice Performance, fixed the rally car overnight, she and Peden headed out into Sunday’s seven stages keen to salvage some points. They returned to the fray with a vengeance finishing third in SS8, second in SS10 and claimed two fourths in SS9 and SS11.
In SS12 a power steering leak slowed the Suzuki to an uncompetitive pace and “once that time was lost, there was no point continuing as we couldn’t salvage any championship points,” Emma explains.
“We had the pace again on Sunday over the different tight, twisty forestry stages, so it was a painful way to end the weekend, after all the work we’ve done on the car. We know how competitive we can be.”
“There are still lots of positives we can take from Otago. The Suzuki has stepped up to the next level of pace required to be consistently in the top three. All we can do now is move on and look forward to the International Rally of Whangarei. A big thank you to my team, supporters and my sponsors for your ongoing support.”
Emma would like to thank her sponsors Suzuki NZ, Vantage Windows and Doors, Gilmour Motors Suzuki, Castrol, Hella, Dayle ITM, Uniform NZ, Provident, Cii Group, NGK Spark Plugs, Custom Signs, Modena Race Gears, Pure Sports Nutrition and Webdesign for supporting the team.