This weekend’s 2022 Otago Rally marks several career milestones for Dunedin rally driver Emma Gilmour.
Recently signed as the first woman to ever drive for motorsport giant McLaren, Emma has come a long way since her rally debut as zero car driver for the 2002 Otago Rally.
“I definitely owe the rally organisers a debt of gratitude for giving me that first shot and letting me drive through the course ahead of the competitors because I didn’t have any experience on gravel!” Emma says.
Fast-forward twenty years to now, and she has amassed a huge amount of experience in multiple driving disciplines. Emma has also progressed through driving a variety of marques to commit to Suzuki for the past nine seasons, as her long-term national championship car of choice.
“I did my first event with Suzuki at a similar time to starting my partnership with Vantage, when I competed in a Targa with the car marque in 2004. This event marked the beginnings of the relationship which would lead to me becoming a Suzuki dealer in 2010.”
Suzuki New Zealand has repledged its support for Emma’s 2022 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) bid, as has her most long-standing sponsor Vantage Windows & Doors.
“I’m really proud that throughout my rallying career I’ve been able to look after this special relationship with Vantage Windows & Doors. We can certainly say we’ve created a long-term partnership as we enter into our 18th year together. Vantage is an amazing New Zealand company and they’ve been involved in some top-level sponsorships over the years, including Kiwi rowing pair Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, along with national rugby, netball, hockey, motocross and cycling teams.”
“The last rally driver Vantage sponsored before me was the late, great Possum Bourne, so I stepped into some pretty big shoes after his untimely passing. The company has stuck with me through thick and thin and it’s been such a privilege to reward their loyalty with my 2022 McLaren Extreme E drive,” Emma says.
She has contested one round in Saudi Arabia with McLaren and will travel to the other four rounds, which are scattered throughout the globe. The recent changes to MIQ mean she will be able to return to New Zealand in between her Extreme E commitments to compete in the six NZRC rounds and run her Suzuki car dealership in Dunedin.
“It makes such a difference to my year knowing that I can now return home without having to play the MIQ lottery, or spend weeks isolating,” she says.
Although the Otago Rally can run under New Zealand’s red traffic light restrictions on April 9 and 10, it will be an altered event.
“The recent government changes have certainly improved the rally’s situation and I’m stoked that the opening ceremony can go ahead in the Octagon. All the drivers enjoy this great opportunity to catch up with our fans and we look forward to seeing them this Friday night from 5pm.”
Emma has had two opportunities to get some seat time in her Vantage Windows & Doors Suzuki Swift AP4 by competing in rallysprints in the North and South Island with co-driver Malcolm Peden.
They entered the Pukekohe Car Club’s Bothwell Loop Rallysprint in Glen Murray recently, taking the Suzuki to runner-up position.
Then the Suzuki headed south for the Eastern Southland Car Club’s Popotunoa Rallysprint, where Emma and Malcolm clocked the fastest times overall in Leg 1 and 2 to take the win over Gore’s Andrew Graves last Saturday.
“Popotunoa Rallysprint is a perfect shakedown for Otago with fast flowing roads like the Dunedin-based rally. It’s always a heated battle with Andrew and it was great to have the added competition of fellow NZRC drivers Kingsley Jones and Ari Pettigrew also competing.”
The Otago Rally will be run over 17 special stages and 280 competitive kilometres, with day one heading north and west of Dunedin. There will be nine special stages on fast public roads based around Middlemarch and including the well-known Moonlight and Switchback tests, as well as Shag Valley, with the photographers’ favourite jump. The day’s last stage will be the 37 km Nenthorn test.
Day two will be run on both sides of the Taieri Plains and centred around the Waihola service park. A mixture of new stages as well as the competitor favourites Waipori Gorge, Taieri Beach and of course, Kuri Bush.
Teams can qualify for the Asia Pacific Rally Championship’s final in New South Wales in November through their Otago and International Rally of Whangarei results.
Emma Gilmour thanks the following sponsors for their support: Suzuki, Vantage Windows & Doors, Castrol NZ, Dayle ITM, Gilmour Motors Suzuki, Custom Signs, Hella, Webdesign, Uniform NZ, Pure Sports Nutrition and Body Synergy Gym.
2022 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship calendar
Round 1 April 8-10 Otago Rally
Round 2 May 13-15 International Rally of Whangarei
Round 3 June 18 Rally South Canterbury
Round 4 July 30 Rally Hawke’s Bay
Round 5 Sept 29-30 Rally New Zealand Day 1
Round 6 Oct 1-2 Rally New Zealand Day 2 and 3