The selection of Dunedin rally driver Emma Gilmour as one of nine drivers and nine co-drivers to participate in a desert rally training camp in Qatar in November is significant for Gilmour’s already-successful career and New Zealand motorsport.
Gilmour will take part in a five-day cross country rally selection and training programme, a joint initiative from the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Women in Motorsport commission and the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) to provide further opportunities for women in motorsport around the world. At the November training camp, one driver and one co-driver will be offered a fully-funded drive in the 1,780 kilometre-long Sealine Cross Country Rally, a round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies taking place in April 2016.
Gilmour was the only nomination from MotorSport New Zealand (MSNZ) and was selected from more than 80 applications from 37 countries submitted to the FIA from national motorsport governing bodies around the world.
Gilmour will now attend the 2-7 November desert training camp led by two of the sport’s finest female competitors – Jutta Kleinschmidt, the first and only woman to win the Dakar Rally, and multiple rally and cross country winning co-driver Fabrizia Pons. Both women will guide the candidates through the intense training and development programme encompassing all the essential techniques required for the demanding motorsport discipline of desert rallies.
“We’re immensely proud to see Emma selected for this exciting opportunity,” says Deborah Day, a MSNZ board member who also manages the Women in Motorsport programme in New Zealand.
“As the New Zealand ambassador on the FIA’s Women in Motorsport commission, I couldn’t think of a better person to be there, waving the Kiwi flag. Emma has been building her international network and this opportunity will undoubtedly further strengthen those valuable relationships among motorsport’s key officials and leading competitors. These connections will not only benefit Emma in her professional endeavours, but also New Zealand motorsport in yet another international arena of competition.
“We know Emma will represent herself and New Zealand very strongly and we wish her all the best in making the final cut to actually compete in the arduous 1,780 km rally next April.”
Gilmour says she feels very lucky to be selected.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to experience a form of motorsport I’ve long had an interest in,” says Gilmour. “The sheer adventure of events like the Dakar Rally and this relatively new cross country world series – it’s a totally different form of motorsport, so to have the chance to taste desert racing is very exciting. And our tutor Jutta Kleinschmidt is an incredible competitor, being so successful at this form of motorsport; I’m really excited for the opportunity to learn from a competitor of her calibre. I feel like that’s a win already.”
Gilmour says she already has a plan in place to prepare for November’s five-day training camp and assessment programme.
“Obviously I want to be competitive going to the training camp. My fitness and strength will be top priority. It’s a lot easier to be mentally tough when you’re fit and can cope with the heat and other unfamiliar desert conditions. I’ll also brush up on my mechanical skills. I think they’ll be interested in seeing how we cope with a range of challenges like this. When you’re out in the middle of the desert, you and your co-driver need to be pretty self-sufficient to get your vehicle going again.”
While Gilmour is not familiar with most of the other women selected for the training camp, except Australians Molly Taylor and Rhianon Gelsomino, she isn’t underestimating the competition ahead to be selected to compete in the desert rally next April.
“I’ll be making the most of the seat time in my Vantage Windows and Doors Suzuki Swift in the upcoming Trusthouse Racetech Rally Wairarapa, and a couple of ride days in October before I go will also help.”
Gilmour also doesn’t know yet what vehicles they’ll be using during the training camp. “Presumably it will be left-hand-drive, but I’m completely comfortable with this having competed in America last year.
Gilmour expresses her appreciation to MSNZ for the nomination. “MotorSport New Zealand has always been very supportive and also put me forward to participate in the FIA Women in Motorsport commission. I certainly appreciate that. I feel very lucky to be selected, and to represent New Zealand.”
MotorSport New Zealand president Shayne Harris adds: “MotorSport New Zealand is committed to supporting New Zealand drivers performing on the world stage and given Emma’s commitment to New Zealand motorsport and as an ambassador for the FIA’s Women in Motorsport, she was the obvious candidate to be our nominee for this significant opportunity to compete offshore. We’re delighted that she has been successful in gaining a place and this is another example of our sport’s good news and successes.”
The women chosen to participate, including two wildcard candidates from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, are:
Drivers – Charlotte Berton, France; Jonna Lisa Eson Bradhe, Sweden; Emma Gilmour, New Zealand; Cristina Gutiérrez Herrero, Spain; Klaudia Podkalicka, Poland; Melanie Schulz, Germany; Yara Shalaby, Egypt; Molly Taylor, Australia; Sara Williams, United Kingdom.
Co-drivers – Lisette Bakker, Netherlands; Tania Cardoso Sequeira, Portugal; Yasmeen Elmajed, Jordan; Veronica Engan, Norway; Rhianon Gelsomino, Australia; Sandra Labuscagne, South Africa; Jasmeen Singh Bhandhair, Zambia; Natalie Solbach-Schmidt, Germany; Lara Vanneste, Belgium.