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Australian co-driver for Gilmour at Southern Lights Rally

Emma Gilmour is fired up about driving in the resurrected Southern Lights Rally and will have a new but familiar co-driver on-board to tackle the gravel rally stages in Southland on 21-22 June.

The Dunedin driver has reenlisted the services of Australian navigator Ben Searcy to call the shots over the two-day rally, which begins next Friday night.

“I want to thank Katrina [Renshaw] for sitting beside me for the first two NZRC rounds but unfortunately we didn’t gel as we had hoped to in the car. We both know how vital that is, so we made the decision to approach the remainder of the season differently than originally planned. I wish Katrina all the best for her co-driving career,” Emma says.

“I’ve gone back to familiar ground and am pleased that Ben is able to come over from Perth and co-drive for me. He sat with me in 2019 and I’m looking forward to working with him again at the Southern Lights Rally,” Emma says.

Ben has a huge amount of experience, most recently claiming the 2023 Asia Pacific Rally Championship as co-driver for Rifat Sungkar of Indonesia.

Using 150km of competitive roads in the Southland region, the Southern Lights Rally revives what used to be one of the most challenging events on the NZRC calendar and was last run in 2004. The June dates next weekend are expected to deliver the toughest of winter conditions, along with prime aurora australis (southern lights) viewing.

The Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) teams will begin this third round by heading into the dark for the first special stage in the Pebbly Hills Forest region on Friday night. On Saturday morning the teams will get up early for a full day of rallying on some of the best gravel roads in the country. After eight special stages, the event concludes with a super special stage at Teretonga Park Raceway, followed by the podium presentations.

Emma sits in fourth place in the NZRC, only one point behind third-placed Jack Hawkeswood and will be looking to move up the NZRC standings.

“I’m keen to continue building confidence in the Vantage Windows & Doors WRC2 C3 rally car, while enjoying the challenge of Southland’s roads. I’ve always enjoyed the southern hospitality and the slippery conditions that I remember as challenging but fun. It’s been a long time – two decades – since we rallied down here, and I was driving a Mitsubishi Evo 6 last time I competed in Southland. I’ve done a few events since then!” Emma says.

Entry to the Transport World ceremonial start is available for a $10 charity donation at the door. Spectator entry for both the Pebbly Hills night stage and the ceremonial finish is also $10. Kids under 14 are free. Tickets can be purchased in advance from Invercargill’s Transport World, E Hayes & Sons, Auto Centre, and Harrison Supplies in Gore, or directly at the gate.

Emma Gilmour thanks the following sponsors for their support: Vantage Windows & Doors, Gilmour Motors Suzuki, Dura-Seal, Dayle ITM, MITO, Suzuki New Zealand, Castrol NZ, Sparco, Allport Motorsports, Custom Signs, NGK, Webdesign, Pure Sports Nutrition and Body Synergy Gym.

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