Gilmour taking on the world

World champion drift driver Rhys Millen has teamed up with Dunedin's Emma Gilmour, who is about...
World champion drift driver Rhys Millen has teamed up with Dunedin's Emma Gilmour, who is about to become the first female driver in the Global Rallycross championship. Photos by AJ Grasso.
The 441kW Hyundai Veloster Turbo rallycross car Emma will be driving.
The 441kW Hyundai Veloster Turbo rallycross car Emma will be driving.

Dunedin rally driver Emma Gilmour may well have black and blue forearms, given how often she has pinched herself in the past few weeks.

Her dream drive became public knowledge yesterday when Hyundai Motor America announced Gilmour (34) would this year become the first female to contest the 10-round Global Rallycross Championship (GRC) in the United States.

She will compete in a new, two-car team with world drifting champion Rhys Millen - driving a 441kW race-prepared Hyundai Veloster rallycross car.

Rallycross involves a field of powerful rally-type cars racing together on a circuit including both sealed and gravelled surfaces.

Not only will Gilmour be the first female to rip up North America circuits in the GRC's supercar category, she will also be one of the two first women to race in the action sports phenomenon, the X-Games, in June.

''It really is a dream come true,'' she said.

''Going to America to race in a professional series with a professional team like Rhys Millen Racing is hard to believe.

''I have to keep pinching myself to remind myself it isn't a dream,'' she said.

''I have always wanted to race in America and I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity by Rhys.

''Although I have never done rallycross, I think my skill set that I have from stage rallying will cross over nicely and having Rhys as a mentor to help me learn will be invaluable.''

The New Zealand-born son of champion rally and off-road racer Rod Millen, Rhys' accolades include being crowned 2012 Pikes Peak international hill climb champion (where he holds seven records), 2008 Formula Drift world champion and 2005 USA drifting champion.

''Rhys is one of the most sought-after performance drivers, known worldwide for his legendary car control skills. Combined with my years of successful rally experience, we are a perfect fit for the RMR team effort,'' Gilmour said.

Millen said he was ''especially proud to have Emma as a teammate''.

''With many top rally drivers hailing from New Zealand, her consistent top performance is sure to impress at every stage of the series,'' he said.

Gilmour will be racing against high-profile professional drivers such as Tanner Foust and Ken Block.

She refused to be unnerved by thoughts of competing in such a testosterone-fuelled environment.

''The intimidating part is the media attention of people watching to see how I will go, but this only lasts as long as it takes for me to put my helmet and race face on - once I'm in the car,'' Gilmour said.

''Once that happens, the other cars are only competitors I want to beat.

''I don't think there is any extra pressure because of my gender. I think it's fantastic that I am joining the sport at such an exciting time and if I can pave the way for more females to take part, then that's great.''

Testing this week with Millen in California confirmed the car more than delivered on its potential.

''It was awesome. The 600-horsepower Veloster was just so much fun to drive. I can't wait till the first round in Barbados [at the BBC Top Gear Festival on May 17],'' she said.

Along with her 10-race international schedule, Gilmour will compete in the six-round New Zealand Rally Championship, in the Suzuki Swift Maxi she debuted last season.

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