New Zealand Rally Championship regular Emma Gilmour has heaped praise on the local rallying scene’s newest event; the Repco Battle of Jack Ridge.
Taking place next month on November 15, the Whitford, Auckland event sprint event will pit a host of Gilmour’s NZRC peers against a who’s who list of domestic racers; including Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen, Race to the Sky veteran Ian Ffitch, D1NZ title winner Darren Kelly, speedway ace Michael Pickens, and former NZRC champ Hayden Paddon.
Gilmour got her first taste of the venue from behind the wheel at its recent media day, performing laps in her 220kW/400Nm Suzuki Swift Sport Maxi, and the Dunedin-based racer was “blown away”.
“When we were told Andrew [Hawkeswood] was building a track at his farm, you sort of think ‘ah, just a track’. [But] I’m just absolutely blown away by this. Its purpose built and so much thought has gone into it,” Gilmour told Velocity News.
“It isn’t simply just a road through a farmland. The banking, the camber, the radius, everything makes it a real pleasure to drive. You can really attack the corners as a rally driver, you can get the car sideways, you can put on a real spectacle, which is what will make it so amazing as a spectator event.”
Gilmour is among the profiles hopeful that the inaugural event could be the start of something big for the sport in New Zealand.
“It’s got the potential for it to be Auckland’s ‘Race to the Sky’. I know it’s not a race to the sky, but in terms of as an event that was what was so special about it — spectators were there with drivers at the pits, you got to watch it all,” she said.
“Motorsport has that ability where you can take it to the masses, and that makes it really exciting. And it’s great to compete at an event like that, because you’re putting on a show. We’re all hooked on the buzz of motorsport, but being able to show people why it’s so exciting and what’s so great about it is great.”
The former NZRC round winner is one of numerous drivers entered in the sprint who will be coming off competing in the City of Auckland Rally, which comes to a close the day prior. Gilmour expects the two events to test drivers in different ways, namely in terms of surface changes and repetition.
“This [Jacks Ridge] will keep getting faster and faster, but it will become more of a challenge because the surface will change as well. With a rally you basically get that one hit with the pace note and the co-driver calling it,” she said.
“This will start to become a learned repetition type thing, so things probably become a 110 per cent thing with how much we’ll be pushing, especially with elements like the jumps and how much people are willing to risk damaging their cars to gain a few tenths of a second.
“In a rally you’ve got to preserve your car for about 200km. This will be a bit more do or die.”
“I think we’re really really lucky to have this event. WRC would have been amazing, but at this event the Kiwis are the stars. Having the likes of Shane van Gisbergen competing brings so much interest to the event, and also in a year when there aren’t that many live exciting events happening it’s also pretty cool. The amount of media attention and exposure we’re getting is great for the sport.”