Molly Taylor has become the first female driver to win the Australian Rally Championship in its 50-year history.In a dramatic conclusion to the 2016 rally season, Taylor went into the final round at Coffs Harbour almost locked on points with fellow Subaru driver Simon Evans and Toyota driver Harry Bates.
While Taylor was able to negotiate the heat and the dust of the NSW north coast event with few dramas, both her rivals were delayed by tyre punctures.
But even then Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes only clinched the title after early leader Mark Pedder incurred a one minute time penalty after the conclusion of the rally. When Pedder opted not to appeal the penalty, the championship win became official, with Taylor edging Evans by a mere two points: 329 to 327. Bates was third, only six points adrift of Evans.
For Taylor, the victory is the highpoint in a career that has already seen her succeed on the international stage, with victories in the European and British ladies championships as well as several honours in junior categories of the World Rally Championship.
She returned to Australia last year full time as part of the Les Walkden Subaru factory squad in the Australian Rally Championship.
“I can confirm today that dreams really do come true,” an elated Taylor said. “Talk about taking it down to the wire! We knew we had to give it everything on those last two stages after a really consistent run all weekend and we pushed so hard.
“And then to get the news that there was a possible penalty for Mark, it was like being on a rollercoaster.
“Bill (Hayes), Les Walkden and the team have done an amazing job all year and it’s such a pleasure to work with a truly professional outfit that has an amazing team spirit.
“We’re so pleased to be able to do it for Subaru too, with their incredible rally heritage.”
Taylor’s historic win creates a unique family double in Australian rallying, as Molly’s mother, Coral, is a four-time Australian rally champion co-driver. Coral co-drove with multiple Australian champion Neal Bates, who is the father of Molly’s 2016 title rival, Harry Bates.