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There’s something about Molly

To celebrate Molly Taylor's victory in the Australian Rally Championship, we're reproducing an interview with Molly originally published in our sister publication, Prodijee, in September 2012.

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Molly Taylor first drove a rally car after working at her father’s rally school. While still at school, a friend offered her a car to compete with in motorkhanas.

In 2009, the Australian moved to the UK to compete in the British rally championship. A year later, she won a scholarship beating some of the best young talent from around the world.

Molly competed in six WRC rounds whilst also finding time for selected European events. In 2012, molly is competing with the united business team in selected European and WRC events.

Darren House spoke to Molly as she prepared for another gruelling event.

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WHAT MAKES YOU WANT TO PLAY IN MUD, DIRT AND DUST?

I’ve always been exposed to the sport through my parents and it’s something I never thought I would ever get involved with until I was in my late teens. I was always preoccupied with other things.

Then my dad, who was running a rally school, wanted us (kids) to learn how to drive properly off the road so that we were more confident when we went to get our licence. They are really supportive of what I want to do but it was my decision to become involved.

YOUR FIRST COMPETITION WAS A MOTORKHANA. HOW DID THAT EVOLVE INTO AN INTERNATIONAL RALLY CAREER?

(It) was something that I loved from the first time. It’s quite an addictive sport as I’m sure most people involved in the sport will testify.

Subaru do Motorsport driver Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes in action in their Subaru WRX STI at the 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia

Subaru do Motorsport driver Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes in action in their Subaru WRX STI at the 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

THERE’S A SCHOOL OF THOUGHT THAT RALLY DRIVERS ARE BETTER THAN CIRCUIT DRIVERS. WHAT’S YOUR VIEW?

Yeah, there is always a bit of banter about that but they are different (disciplines).

Circuit racing is very precise and it’s a different skill. To be that particular and that precise – where you are (measuring in) tenths of seconds – whereas rallying is dealing with a lot of different circumstances as they arise.

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Every corner is different, you aren’t repeating the same thing over and over again, you are dealing with a different surface, different corners and different speeds so it’s a different skill altogether. It’s very hard to compare.

WHAT’S THE HARDEST PART OF RALLY DRIVING? IS IT THE PHYSICAL SIDE OR THE MENTAL SIDE?

It’s a very physical sport but the g-forces and that stuff are not the same as for circuit racing and in particular, open wheelers. It’s not that degree of physical exertion, though there’s a lot of heat and stuff like that. For me, it’s more mentally demanding. To be able to commit to the speed on (corners) that you can’t see and you haven’t practised… it’s definitely tough making those decisions.

WITH FITNESS, YOU GET A PERSONAL TRAINER BUT HOW DO YOU TRAIN YOUR MIND?

The thing that anyone in motor sport will say is that you just practice and get time in the car. Just learning and gaining experience. (But) that’s the most expensive part of rallying, so it’s the most difficult thing to do.

Subaru do Motorsport driver Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes in action in their Subaru WRX STI at the 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia

Subaru do Motorsport driver Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes in action in their Subaru WRX STI at the 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia

DO YOU HAVE PRACTICE RESTRICTIONS LIKE IN MOST HIGH LEVEL MOTOR SPORT?

Not like in terms of Formula One with (restrictive) rules they have on testing, it’s not to that degree but it still a restriction due to our budget. It’s difficult enough to get the budget to do the rally itself, let alone anything else. It’s something we are always trying to do more of but can’t afford to do.

BEFORE YOU BECAME A RALLY DRIVER AND GOT INTO CARS, YOU WERE INTO HORSEPOWER OF A DIFFERENT KIND?

When I was younger I did quite a bit of horse riding and competed. That’s what I was always focused on and then I started doing a couple of small car competitions, which kind of took over and overshadowed everything else.

YOU HAD TO SELL YOUR HORSE. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN TOUGH?

Yeah, it wasn’t easy but I ended up with a rally car at the end of the day, so that was okay.

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YOU WERE HORSE-RIDING WHEN YOU WERE AT BOARDING SCHOOL. IS BOARDING SCHOOL AS BAD AS PEOPLE WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE?

Umm it’s interesting. There were obviously good points and bad points and it was a fantastic experience and for me; I got to meet a whole range of different people. I guess to grow up in a different scenario was good. I took a lot away from it but I don’t know if it’s everyone’s cup of tea.

DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING THAT HELPED YOU WHEN YOU MOVED TO ENGLAND?

Yes, I learnt to be more independent because I was living away from home. From that side of things it makes things a bit easier to not be as homesick because it’s not something completely new. So I guess that would have helped.

HOW DID YOU PROGRESS FROM RUNNING IN SMALL EVENTS HERE TO A PROFESSIONAL CAREER IN EUROPE?

I started just doing it for the experience, then a bit of competition led to more competition and I’m a competitive person. I always want to do the next thing or do it bigger or better and it just snowballed from that. Then it got to the stage where I wanted to go to where the competition and rallying was bigger, which is over here.

Subaru do Motorsport driver Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes in action in their Subaru WRX STI at the 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia

Subaru do Motorsport driver Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes in action in their Subaru WRX STI at the 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia

YOU CAN LOOK BACK AND THINK I’VE COME A LONG WAY BUT WHEN YOU ARE GOING FORWARD, IT’S QUITE INCREMENTAL AND IT DOESN’T SEEM SUCH A BIG STEP.

If you look back it seems like that, big steps, but I never really think about that. The position I’m in at the moment is at the very bottom of where we could be (so) it doesn’t seem that big of a step. It seems like I’ve still got a long, long way to go.

HOW TOUGH IS IT FOR AN AUSTRALIAN TO BREAK INTO THE SPORT IN EUROPE?

The difficult thing I have found over the last couple of years is that bigger category, a more competitive category, at different events so at a lot of the events it’s the first time that I have been there. From a learning perspective, it is a great experience but the competition is very strong and I’m running against a lot of people who have been doing the events before. It’s their home event. For me, competing at home was comfortable but now I’m against different competition, a lot tougher competition. It’s difficult but that’s where we want to be.

CASEY STONER TOLD PRODIJEE.COM THAT, AS AN AUSTRALIAN, HE STRUGGLED TO GAIN EUROPEAN COMMERCIAL SUPPORT. HAS THAT BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE?

No, not from a rallying side, not at all. Everyone’s been very supportive. I’m lucky to have not faced barriers like that. I think if you look at the level of Moto GP and rallying, I’m playing in a very different ball park. I’m not playing at the level of commercialism. There’s not that sort of pressure or barriers for me.

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ONCE YOU GOT TO ENGLAND, DID YOU FEEL PRESSURED TO PERFORM?

It sounded like a great idea on paper but when it becomes reality, it’s tough. There’s definitely an element of that but you just make the most of it. I try my best and see if it’s good enough.

EARLY ON YOU NEARLY WON A TITLE BUT WERE ROBBED BY MECHANICAL FAILURE RIGHT AT THE END. THAT MUST HAVE BEEN HEARTBREAKING?

That was the very first year I came over. It was probably the best run we have had, ironically, but I was quite surprised to come over and then do that well in my first year. It was very disappointing not to win but that’s all part of the sport.

Plenty of times I make the mistake too; there are many stories like that. If I had won that time it would have been fantastic but I was there to prove myself and we did that regardless.

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IN 2010 YOU DID THE PIRELLI STAR DRIVER SHOOT OUT. WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT?

It’s a scholarship programme for six drivers from around the world to compete in the World Rally Championship, or selected rounds of the world championship. There were regional selections, then representatives from each region went to a national shoot out and from there they selected six drivers for the scholarships. The FIA Women in Motor Sport Commission nominated me to compete.

It was an incredible experience and for me a massive opportunity. To go from just national competition level to then having someone fund your place in the World Rally Championship was something that I would never have had the opportunity to do without the scheme like the Pirelli Star Driver.

YOU HAVE COMPETED WITH YOUR MUM, MULTIPLE AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPION CO-DRIVER, CORAL. HOW WAS THAT?

Mum’s done two rallies with me and that has been nice. I’ve grown up listening to her and co-driving with her was interesting. I don’t know if a mother-daughter team in the car all the time is the best partnership long term but she was fantastic for where I was at that point. I needed some guidance and help, and she was the perfect person to do that for me.

Subaru do Motorsport driver Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes at the 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia

Subaru do Motorsport driver Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes at the 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

AT HOME, YOUNG DAUGHTERS PROBABLY DON’T LISTEN TO THEIR MUMS ALL THAT MUCH BUT IN THE CAR, YOU HAVE TO.

Yeah, it’s good like that because as soon as you get in the rally car, it’s not really a mother-daughter relationship; we are working. It’s nice to be able to work like that with someone who is your mother.

HOW DID YOU GO IN THOSE SIX WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUNDS?

It was a bit up and down, really. We had a difficult start to the year. For me, it was a massive year of learning. I think to be thrown in that level – when we didn’t have as much experience as a lot of the people we were competing against – was really tough.

(But) we progressed a massive amount and at the last event of the year we went very, very well. We were very competitive. From that point of view, it was very good experience to start the year at a certain level and be able to get to the right level by the end of the season. It was a very valuable year.

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DID YOU FIND THE EUROPEAN CONDITIONS VERY DIFFERENT TO WHAT YOU WERE USED TO IN AUSTRALIA?

The rallies were completely different. I haven’t done a lot of tarmac events because there’s not a huge amount of them in Australia, so that was one of the biggest things over here – there’s a lot of tarmac. We were firstly competing in the UK and then with the WRC in Europe and it is completely different wherever you go – the nature of the stages, the different types of roads, the different regions.

DID YOU COMPETE ON SNOW?

No, I’ve driven on a frozen lake for training but I haven’t done a rally in the snow, but I would like to! Driving on ice is a very, very fun thing to do. You are on proper studded tyres that have a phenomenal amount of grip and it’s a great place to train and learn car control because there’s nothing but soft snow if you run off.

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FELLOW AUSTRALIAN CHRIS ATKINSON MADE IT TO THE TOP BUT THEN HAD THE RUG PULLED FROM UNDER HIM?

It’s just like any form of motor sport; it’s incredibly difficult to get to the top and stay there. Everything is constantly changing; it’s quite an unpredictable sport in many ways, so I will just make the most of where I am at the moment. The biggest thing for me is learning and I’m still improving all the time, so I’m not at the level I need to be. That’s my line of focus at the moment, to get to where I want to be.

HOW WILL YOU GET THERE?

That’s a good question – I would like to know the answer. I need more time in the car, to learn more and get more experience. Rallying is quite different; everyone progresses a lot later (in life) because you need to do the rallies a few times. It’s not like going to a circuit and learning the track. A lot of people progress at a younger age in circuit racing because it’s a different thing to practise. In rallying, it takes experience and years. It’s just something that takes time.

Subaru do Motorsport driver Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes in action in their Subaru WRX STI at the 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia

Subaru do Motorsport driver Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes in action in their Subaru WRX STI at the 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

DO YOU HAVE TO FIND SPONSORS?

Yes, definitely. I spend a lot of my time trying to do that. At the moment we have just started a promotion with a raffle fundraiser based in Australia to try to make the rest of this year happen.

I’ve got a limited programme confirmed with an Italian business, a team. We are trying to improve on that, for me it’s about doing more rallies. If I can raise money and do more rallies, that’s a benefit. I will never stop trying to do that.

WHAT SORT OF MONEY DO YOU NEED TO DO THE REST OF THE YEAR?

It’s hard to put a figure on it but its tens of thousands. The more money we get, the more rallies we do. It’s not a figure I need to get as such. I’ve got this programme with United Business Rally Team, which is a team in Italy and we have confirmed a programme to do four events. From there we try to push and do more with whatever else we get.

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ARE THERE ANY LANGUAGE ISSUES WORKING FOR AN ITALIAN TEAM?

There are some guys who speak a bit of English but I’ve also tried to learn a bit of Italian. That’s a very slow process but I will get there!

WHAT PREPARATION DO YOU DO BEFORE A RALLY?

We literally just got back from an all-night rally in Italy. It started in the night, finished Sunday morning then I was straight back on the plane to England and back to work on Monday. I leave here on Friday for another weekend rally, so the pressure at the moment is trying to unpack, wash and repack. We also try to look over what (rally) stages are common from previous years and what pace notes we can use, what stages are completely new where we will have to write completely new notes. We just try to familiarise ourselves with the rally and things like that.

Subaru rally driver Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes in action during testing.

Subaru rally driver Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes in action during testing.

WHEN YOU ARE NOT RALLYING, WHAT SORT OF WORK DO YOU DO?

I work for M-Sport, which is the team that runs the Ford World Rally Team. The company is located just below Scotland, in Cumbria, northwest England and about six hours from London.

I work in the customer section, so we build different specification cars from an entry level rally car right up to a world level of rally car. We have customers all around the world that we support to run these cars. I coordinate a championship that we run in the UK,

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YOU HAVE ALSO HAD A LOT OF HELP FROM OTHER PEOPLE.

There is an endless list of people who have helped. It’s absolutely impossible to do it on your own. From the start, I went to the CAMS driver development programmes and to the Australian Institute of Sport and from there I really got to see the professional side of the sport and all the other aspects that we needed to work on. It’s not just about hopping in the car.

That definitely ignited something in me to pursue it more seriously and then the support of the Australian Motor Sport Foundation, was the catalyst to support me enough to make the move over to the UK in the first place.

I have received a tremendous amount of support from back home and also from people here in the UK, as well.

NOT THAT YOU PROBABLY HAVE MUCH TIME, BUT WHAT ARE YOUR OTHER INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF RALLYING?

Where I live in England is a really nice place to do a lot of mountain running and training, and things like that. There’s a group of us in the local town that do that kind of thing. At home, a bit of water skiing or something like that but I don’t get time to do much at the moment. I also like cooking, it’s therapeutic. It’s good to relax.

www.mollytaylor.com.au

Darren House

Interview: Darren House.