As one of the world’s top female rally drivers, Emma Gilmour is completely at home behind the wheel of anything that moves.
“I love having a car so well set up that it feels like an extension of yourself as you make it dance and glide effortlessly from corner to corner.”
From competing in the Global Rally Cross Championship to racing her Swift Sport Maxi in the New Zealand Rally, Emma brings huge amounts of skill, talent and passion to driving. She has travelled extensively in Asia and Europe with her chosen sport, including wining the right to compete in the 2016 Sealine Cross Country Rally in the deserts of Qatar and being invited to compete in the Italian Baja by Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Just after her recent first NZ Rally Championship win in Canterbury, we sat down with Emma and asked her a few questions.
How did you get started in rally-driving?
I grew up around cars with my father who is a mechanic. He was always building or working on them or driving them very quickly.
My sister and my cousin both started rallying in the late 90’s whilst I was still horse riding competitively, so I started navigating for them in rallies. I loved the speed and going fast on gravel, and when I finally had a go at driving myself. I was well and truly hooked.
What it is the toughest part of being a rally driver?
Always trying to find the sponsorship to keep going. Its an expensive sport and to compete at National level in New Zealand it takes a lot of time to find and look after new and existing sponsors. I am fortunate to have a great team of loyal sponsors like Suzuki NZ and Vantage Windows and Doors.
What is the scariest moment you’ve had?
In rallying we’re always having somewhat scary moments! Its part of the buzz – but it was very scary when I had a high speed accident in 2007 which resulted in me getting knocked unconscious and earning a helicopter ride to the local hospital. The scary part was actually the recovery and how long it took to come right after my concussion.
Do you have any pre-event routines?
I spend a lot of time before an event doing all of the team logistics and bookings. I also check any pace notes or in-car video of the event if we have done some of the stages in previous years. This involves me watching in-car video and checking it against my pace notes (my description of the road which my co-driver calls back to me at speed) to see if there are changes that will allow me to drive faster this time.
On event I stay pretty relaxed but I always do a fist pump at 15 sec to go on the start line.
Tell us a little bit about MMMMMs?
MMMMMS is our Suzuki Swift Maxi rally car. We built her in 2013 from a standard Swift Sport into a spec to match the new NZ AP4 Regulations – which in simplistic terms is like a NZ built World Rally Car. She has big travel suspension, 4WD and is 1600cc Turbo charged. We had our first win this year in Christchurch which was an awesome reward for our team which has built her from scratch.
How do you balance rally-driving with your day job?
It requires a lot of hard work and also a great team in both businesses – the rally team and Gilmour Motors Suzuki. I’m also very lucky to have great customers here in Dunedin and Otago. They love their Suzuki’s like I do! We enjoy a lot of repeat business and referrals from their support.
What are you goals you are working towards right now?
Our main goal is to win the NZ Rally Championship. We missed out in 2016 so we are already working towards 2017 and making MMMMMS even faster. With business I want to continue to sell and grow the Suzuki brand in Dunedin and Otago.
What do you do when you just want to relax?
I enjoy going to the gym every morning and keeping fit. I also love shopping and after having a year off clothes shopping I seem to be back with a vengeance! I really enjoy trail bike riding so would like to do more of that. More often than not – my day off on Sunday involves relaxing with friends and family and my two Burmese cats Harri & Millie.
Follow Emma and her radically transformed Swift Sport Maxi at the rally events being held around the country on Emma's Facebook page.
Model: Suzuki Swift Sport Maxi 4WD
Engine: 1.8 litre, Garrett turbocharger, custom-made exhaust, radiator and intercooler.
Weight: 1,200kg (approx)
Power: 250kW (approx)