Gilmour offered Middle Eastern cross country rally opportunity


Dunedin rally driver Emma Gilmour has been offered an exciting opportunity to attend a desert racing training camp in Qatar.

In November, she will be exchanging New Zealand’s gravel roads for Qatar’s sandy dunes after being chosen today out of 85 applicants from 39 countries, to participate in the joint FIA Women in Motorsport and Qatar Motor and Motorcycling Federation (QMMF) cross country rally project.

Emma is one of 18 women – nine drivers and nine co-drivers – and the only Kiwi female to make the cut.

“This is such an incredible chance to learn more about racing in the desert and I feel really honoured to be picked, with so many other women applying,” she says.

Before she embarked on a decade of rally driving, both in New Zealand and around the Asia Pacific region, Emma (35) rode trail motorbikes, so the adventurous nature of cross country racing appealed.

“It is something that has always interested me. For a long time I have thought that doing an event like the Dakar Rally would be awesome,” Emma says.

She will take part in a five-day training and assessment programme in Qatar, where one driver and one co-driver will ultimately be chosen to team up and participate in the 2016 Sealine Cross Country Rally in April 2016, courtesy of QMMF.

President of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission and legendary, former WRC rally driver Michele Mouton, who was joined on the assessment committee by Jutta Kleinschmidt and Fabrizia Pons said they were impressed by the calibre of applicants, which made the initial selection process very difficult.

“Our ASNs (National Sport Authorities) really got behind this project and it has demonstrated there are a lot of women out there who want to come and try a different discipline,” Michele says.

The desert training camp, between November 2 and 7, will be 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 this motorsport discipline.

“The desert training will be tough, but it has to be because this is the nature of the sport,” Jutta says.

“For a lot of the time during an event the crew is on its own and they need to be resourceful, determined and focused, often in extreme conditions and temperatures.”
“We need to see these attributes, and more, because cross country rallying is so much more than just driving. Naturally I really hope we can find a driver and co-driver with the potential, longer term, to really challenge the leading crews in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies,” she adds.

Emma hopes her years of national and international rallying would give her an advantage and she plans to brush up on her mechanical skills over the next month. She will also increase her fitness regime and attend some Bikram yoga classes – normally held in temperatures of 40deC – to prepare for the local heat at the Qatar training camp.

Although she didn’t know exactly what cars they would be driving, Emma was expecting them to be “four-wheel-drive desert vehicles of some sort,” she says.
Although the cost of the training camp is covered, Emma is paying her own way to get there.

“It will be completely worth the airfares I’m sure. The opportunity to work with such talented motorsport personalities, such as, Jutta and Fabrizia is really a once in a lifetime occurrence – so I’ve grabbed hold of it with both hands!” Emma says.


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The New Zealand Rally Championship is this country’s premier nationwide rally championship. It attracts New Zealand’s best drivers to compete in numerous categories for the prestigious MotorSport New Zealand-sanctioned rally championship titles. In 2024, there are six NZRC rounds, each with a unique character reflecting the diverse regions – from Northland to Invercargill