Emma Gilmour’s New Zealand Rally Championship may have ended upside down, but she’s jetting off to the US to continue getting to grips with the increasingly popular Global Rallycross series.
The Dunedin driver finished her Downunder season by rolling out of the Trusthouse Racetech Rally of Wairarapa in the second stage. She and co-driver Ben Atkinson were unhurt but her Suzuki Swift Maxi was unable to continue.
“It was a slow-speed roll. The Suzuki just stepped out on braking and as I was quite sideways into a bank, it used it like a ramp and launched up and over.
“Putting the car on its lid was just really disappointing after everyone’s efforts this season. One positive we can take is that the engine was running great on the first stage.
“Although we have finished in the NZRC due to date clashes, please stay tuned for some announcements about our plans later in the year.”
It’s been a steep learning curve for her in the opening three rounds, which included competing at the X-Games in Austin, Texas, last month, as the rallycross series is a long way removed from what she’s used to.
Gilmour is the only one in the car, so there’s no technical and moral support from a co-driver. She has to line up at the start with other cars around her — something that doesn’t happen in rallying — and there’s the short blast to the first corner where all the drivers are trying to fit into a space made for one.
“All the other drivers in the field have mostly come from track racing where they are used to having a whole lot of other cars around them,” said Gilmour.
“The big buzz is lining up next to all the other cars waiting for the lights to go out.
“It’s great to be racing against some pretty big names in motorsport [Scott Speed, Nelson Piquet jnr, Ken Block and Travis Pastrana to name a few] but I have to realise what my limitations are at the moment.
“It’s also tough joining a championship where all the other competitors have done it before and are really good. I just need more miles in the car and I’ll be on the pace. It sure has been a steep learning curve and I can’t wait to have a decent test.”
Coupled with the new form of racing is the fact Gilmour has had no time in the car other than on race weekends. She’s a bit behind the eight-ball in trying to understand how the car works, especially as races are held on mixed surfaces.
Despite this, Gilmour has made the semifinals once and is 13th in the 20-driver championship.
“I haven’t had any practice time in the car at all. So far the only time I get to drive it is in the short practice season [four laps] before we have to start racing.
“I haven’t got that comfortable in the car yet, and that’s why I’m going up to the US earlier this time to get a few tests done and get the car set up and handling the way I like it.
“It doesn’t help that the cars are set up for tarmac racing rather than gravel and use a tyre that is effectively a slick. And when you do get on to the dirt there’s no grip.
“If I’m not happy in the car I’m not too happy with going wheel-to-wheel with other drivers because I don’t really know what the car is going to do when pushed to its limits.”
2014 Global Rallycross Championship
July 19-20 New York
July 25-26 Charlotte
August 2-3 Detroit
August 22-23 Daytona
September 19-20 San Pedro
September 26-27 Seattle
November 5 Las Vegas