Two of New Zealand’s best rally drivers, Emma Gilmour and Richard Mason, have been selected by Rally New Zealand to receive special wildcard entries for the FIA Production World Rally Championship class of Rally New Zealand taking place from 6 to 9 May this year.
The ‘wildcard’ or guest entry for this global production car category of rallying offers both Gilmour and Mason to prove their skills on the world stage.
“We’re delighted to have Emma Gilmour and Richard Mason represent New Zealand in the hotly-contested Production World Rally Championship category,” says Chris Carr, chairman of Rally New Zealand.
“Both drivers are highly talented and professional, and we’re sure they will make the most of the opportunity to showcase their abilities by being seeded among and running directly against the current PWRC competitors.”
Mason, from Masterton, will unveil his new Subaru Group N, or production class, car after Easter. In the meantime, he’s delighted to have his second opportunity as a Rally New Zealand wildcard entry in the PWRC field.
“We’ve be awarded the wildcard entry once before and have entered PWRC directly twice before,” says Mason, whose wife Sara is his co-driver. “It’s always a huge opportunity for Sara and I to run directly against the PWRC competitors. Even though, as a New Zealand Rally Championship competitor in Rally New Zealand, we use the same sort of Group N car as the PWRC competitors, you don’t get the same recognition in the wider rallying world as you would being one of the PWRC entrants.”
In his previous runs in the PWRC field, Mason finished third twice and second once in Australia and New Zealand.
“We’re definitely aiming to go one better this year – top of the PWRC podium.
“This gives a great lift to our plans to win the New Zealand Rally Championship title again this year. And with the new car we’re about to unveil, we have the best opportunity we’ve ever had to do well in the PWRC field in 2010.”
As a PWRC guest entrant, Mason would normally carry number 49 but in honour of Rally New Zealand’s 40th anniversary in 2010, the former New Zealand rally champion will carry number 40 on his Subaru rally car.
“Normally number 40 is allocated to a Pirelli Star driver, Ott Tanak, but he’s not coming to New Zealand, so the FIA has allowed the number to be assigned to Richard Mason,” explains Carr.
Gilmour is currently ranked as the world’s top woman rally driver courtesy of her second place in the 2009 Asia Pacific Rally Championship. However Gilmour herself isn’t concerned with rankings by gender – she’s simply excited to be chosen by Rally New Zealand as one of the PWRC guest entries in 2010.
“It’s the second time I’ve had this opportunity and it’s fantastic to have another chance to represent New Zealand in the PWRC class,” says Gilmour, who is originally from Dunedin and now lives in Hamilton with her partner and co-driver Glenn Macneall.
“To be on an even playing field with global competitors, all driving Group N production cars, that’s the opportunity I want to make the most of. It all helps my profile globally.”
Like Mason, Gilmour is about to unveil her new Subaru rally car.
The guest entries see Mason and Gilmour registered to earn points in the 2010 FIA Production World Rally Championship, as well as the New Zealand Rally Championship, during Rally New Zealand. The wildcard entry is worth around $NZ 7,000 (3,650 Euro) to the each competitor whose team is also allocated a space in the service park, lights and power – a package worth $NZ 1,000.
This year Rally New Zealand is based in Auckland with several key elements located within the city’s boundaries, such as the spectacular start ceremony at Viaduct Harbour, the service park on Queens Wharf and the rally headquarters at SKYCITY Auckland. The rally route takes competitors both north and south of the city – Friday’s route runs through the Whangarei and Kaipara districts, while Saturday and Sunday’s stages are in the Franklin, North Waikato and Raglan districts. More information is available on www.rallynz.org.nz.