“I love driving a car as fast as possible on a closed road with no oncoming traffic or distractions – there’s no feeling quite like it!” Emma Gilmour, one of the world’s fastest female rally drivers, tells us.
“Add into the challenge of gravel and slippery surfaces and the feeling of dancing a car through acceleration and braking is unbeatable…”
New Zealand-born Emma Gilmour made her rally debut in 2002 at the Targa Bambina. Since then, she has been impressing with her skill and determination to take on some of the toughest rally stages in the world.
Through competing in FIA (the International Governing body for Motorsport) sanctioned events like the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, she has been able to net some excellent results while running her very own car dealership.
In 2009, she finished second in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and has been recognised as the ‘top female rally driver’ at World Rally Championship events.
“I started co-driving for my sister, and then I finally had a go at driving and was hooked,” she says.”I think people are still surprised when they find out my passion. I think it’s regarded as a dangerous sport, but the horse riding I did before motorsport is much more dangerous.
“Our cars are built very safe and we take a lot of safety precautions. Driving every day is probably more risky!”
Emma has lots of brilliant motorsport memories and she has so “too many great rallies to choose from”. However, the WRC Finland will always hold a place close to her heart for “it’s truly special because of the nature of the roads and the passionate spectators”.
She competed in the Finnish event in 2006, where her and Claire Mole won stages in the Ford Fiesta – it was also the first event that they had ever competed in together.
“It was a very special event and I really hope to compete there again in the future,” she says.
The rally driver also regards desert racing as a favourite of hers, especially competing in Qatar, a place far from her home on the other side of the world.
“Desert racing in Qatar is has to be a highlight,” she says. “It was hugely challenging and so different to what I normally do. I can’t not mention doing the X Games in America as part of the Red Bull Global Rallycross series as a fantastic moment too. It was also hugely special.”
But, like with all sports, rallying can have a downside too. The engineering that goes into the cars is complex and a simple fault can spell out disaster for a competitor.
“Having to rely on a mechanical object to show your true ability is tough,” she says. “It can be so heartbreaking to be having a great event and then for something to break on your car.”
Emma also points out that the smallest of mistakes can lead to big repercussions, as you can pay a “big price for making a tiny error”.
Aside from this, Emma is adamant that women can be as competitive as men when it comes to rallying – Emma herself is a great example of this. “We need more women starting out in motorsport,” she says.
Despite being in the rallying game for over a decade and a half, she’s certain that there’ll be lots more motorsport adventures to come.
“I still want to compete in the WRC again – ideally in an R5 car,” she says. “I know I am a much better driver than the last time I competed in the WRC.”
This year she has been one of only two women competing in the New Zealand Rally Championship, where she is currently sixth in the standings with one weekend to go.
We wish Emma the best of luck!