Gilmour looking to defend Canterbury title

By Catherine Pattison on Sat, 3 Jun 2017 | Suzuki | Motorsport | Rally
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Dunedin's Emma Gilmour won the Rally of Canterbury yesterday (SUNDAY) becoming the first female to ever win a national rally championship round. PHOTO: KATE RIDDER

Rally Canterbury will forever be a favourite for Emma Gilmour after her historic victory last year, and she hopes to repeat the feat tomorrow.

The Dunedin driver became the first woman to win a New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) event after Gilmour and her Australian co-driver Anthony McLoughlin either won or finished runners-up in eight of the nine stages.

‘‘It was really special to win this rally last year. I'll be channelling that feeling again come this Sunday and using it to help propel us up the points table. We still have the championship in our sights and although it will be a climb to get there, we will be going for it,'' Gilmour said.

Tomorrow's event utilises similar terrain to 2016, with about 200km of competitive driving over 10 special stages on well-formed gravel roads in the Ashley and Okuku forests. Gilmour believes her 1600cc Suzuki Swift Maxi is well-suited to these types of tests.

‘‘We seem to perform well in the tight, twisty stages, as our stage win in the forests at April's Otago Rally showed. I also enjoy the challenging conditions Canterbury always seems to throw at drivers, and if it's anything like previous years we could well come across snow and ice,'' Gilmour said.

Balclutha's Rhys Gardner is the top Otago driver at present, sitting fourth overall in his Mazda 2 AP4. He has fitted new AP clutch plates to replace the damaged and slipping ones from Whangarei and no doubt would like to replicate his impressive podium finish from the opening round at Otago.

This year, night stages are back at Canterbury, so drivers will need to compete with specially mounted headlights. The rally gets under way at 9am tomorrow and concludes about 6.30pm.

Its not just driving in the dark that is new for young Cantabrian Job Quantock, as he will also make his competitive debut in Hayden Paddon's Hyundai NZ i20 AP4+ rally car. Quantock takes over the drive from defending NZRC champion David Holder, who had an agreement to drive the Hyundai for the first two rounds.

Quantock (22) earned the opportunity to contest two New Zealand Rally Championship events in the Paddon Rallysport-run car when he won the inaugural Hyundai NZ Young Driver Scholarship last December.

‘‘Our main goal for this rally is to finish and keep developing as a driver and team while enjoying this amazing experience,'' Quantock said.

He will have Hamilton's Jason Farmer alongside as his co-driver in Canterbury. Farmer has also been in the Hyundai for the first two NZRC rounds, navigating for Holder.

Quantock will also drive the Hyundai at Rally Waikato in October, while Paddon returns from overseas to take over the i20 rally car for the other two NZRC events, Rally Coromandel in August and the two-day, Tauranga-based Rally New Zealand in November.