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Emma Gilmour and Rhys Gardner will join about 50 teams taking on 292km of Northland’s roads. They will be headed by New Zealand’s own World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon in a Hyundai i20 and his stand-in co-driver, Mal Peden. With former long-time New Zealand co-driver John Kennard recuperating from recent hip surgery after the pair convincingly won the Otago Rally three weeks ago, Paddon put out the call for a new co-driver to join him for this event, ultimately choosing Cambridge-based Peden.
"Once we knew John and Seb [Marshall — Paddon’s WRC co-driver] were not available, we saw this as an opportunity to offer a chance to a Kiwi co-driver to work with us, Paddon said.
"As we didn’t know what commitments current people had and not wanting to step on toes, we thought easier to put a note out there and see who come to us. Well, that opened a can of worms with a humbling response," Paddon said.
He heads back to Europe the day after the two-day Whangarei event concludes and wants to be in top form for his next WRC round in Portugal with Hyundai. The opening round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and the second round of the New Zealand Rally Championship, Whangarei is the only international rally on the calendar this year.
The four APRC entries include Australian-based Kiwi Michael Young and co-driver Malcolm Read in a Toyota Yaris, Yuya Sumiyama and Takahiro Yasui (Japan) in a Skoda Fabia R5, Fabio Frisiero and Simone Scattolin (Italy) in a Peugeot 208 and Fuyuhiko Takahashi and Mitsuo Nakamura (Japan) driving a Subaru STI. Gilmour and Gardner both had a season-opening event to forget. A last-stage puncture thwarted Gilmour’s podium finish and a gearbox failure ended Gardner’s rally on day one. A replacement fifth gear was found for Gardner’s Mazda 2 AP4+ in time for him to complete some pre-Whangarei testing.
Co-driver David Calder has a previous obligation to navigate for Australian Nathan Quinn in a Ford Fiesta R5 so Phil Hall has flown out from the United Kingdom to do the duty for the Whangarei event. Suzuki Swift AP4 driver Gilmour and co-driver Anthony McLoughlin have updated their rattle gun and jack system to better handle tyre changes on tricky terrain, should this misfortune which marred their Otago Rally, arise again this weekend.
"We had a really positive start at Otago and it’s a shame that we didn’t get the finish that we should have. However, onwards and upwards and we are focusing on banking some solid championship points this weekend in the Suzuki," Gilmour said.