Sydney’s Molly Taylor has made Australian motorsport history, taking her first outright win in the Australian Rally Championship, and becoming the first woman ever to win a round of the series. Taylor, 27, and experienced Perth-based co-driver Bill Hayes did battle with time penalties and a fragile car (Renault Clio R3), as well as some serious competition, before taking the win in this weekend’s National Capital Rally in Canberra (May 15-17). The win puts the pair at the top of the championship points tally after the second round of the 2015 series.
“It’s not bad,” Taylor said, smiling broadly. “I have to admit my first outright win does feel pretty good! It’s always good to win, obviously, but I don’t think of myself as being the first woman to win a round. I’m out there to be the first driver home, irrespective of my gender.”
Veteran co-driver Bill Hayes was full of praise for Taylor, who was officially ranked as world rallying’s fastest female driver two years ago while competing in Europe.
“She did an awesome job. She’s incredibly hard on herself but she really does a great job. In fact, she could probably go really well if she gives it a bit more effort and gets a younger, lighter co-driver in the car with her!” he laughed.
While the pair was delighted to spray the champagne, the win did not come easily. On Saturday (Heat One), they were leading by 15 seconds as they came into the midday service, only to find a massive hole in the sump guard.
“The crew did an incredible job to fix it but we were seven minutes late out of service so we were hit with a 35-second time penalty,” Taylor said.
“That put us 20 seconds behind Tony Sullens (and Julia Barkley, Citroën DS3 R3T). We were able to make up 18 seconds of that time over the next three stages, so we finished the day two seconds behind him, which was a pretty good start for Heat Two.
“But I have to say I wasn’t so happy about Heat Two (Sunday). I felt we were struggling to find a rhythm and the sort of pace I knew we were capable of. Bill thinks I’m just a whinger!
“We did have some engine issues which the guys managed to fix up in terms of finishing the event, but the car was a bit fragile, and I made a few mistakes too, which cost us a bit of time.
“However I have to say hats off to my good mate, Harry Bates, and his phenomenal drive because he kept Tony and Julia at bay, so they ended up second. Harry and John (McCarthy, Toyota Corolla Sportivo) finished third, which was just fantastic on Harry’s first ARC event.”
With second place in Heat One, and a game of musical chairs for the top places in Heat Two, Taylor says she and Hayes knew there was a mathematical chance they could win the round during Sunday’s battle.
“So there was a point where we thought we could be first or we could be third, and then you start thinking ‘do we push for first and try to win the rally and risk everything’ or settle for third and take the points. In the end, we’re obviously happy with the way it played out.”
Despite winners being grinners, Taylor did not make the official presentation on Sunday night. She drove home to Sydney to prepare for a flight to Portugal today (May 18), to work with the radio commentary team (WRC Live) on the World Rally Championship round in Portugal next weekend (May 21-24).
The National Capital Rally covered a total of 518km of forest trails around Canberra, with 208km of competition across 12 closed-road special stages. The next round of the ARC will be the International Rally of Queensland, over the weekend of June 19-21.
Molly Taylor started rallying at 17 and won two class titles in Australia before moving to the UK in 2009 to chase her dream of a career in world rallying.
She competed in the British, European and World Rally Championships and during that time she was named British Ladies Champion two years in a row, won the inaugural European Rally Championship Ladies Trophy and was officially recognised as the fastest female rally driver in the world (2013). Taylor is planning to contest several WRC rounds in 2015, as well as the Australian championship.