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Sport on Saturdays: Meet the #1 ranked female rally driver in the world.

Molly and her mum, Coral

This is Molly Taylor. She’s pictured with her mum, Coral Taylor.

They’re your regular Australian mother-and-daughter duo… except that they’re not.

Together, Molly and Coral have dominated motorsports across the world. That’s right – motorsports. One of the most traditionally male-dominated sports that has ever existed.

Years ago, Coral started off in motorsports and managed to record four championship victories and seven in second place, making her the most successful woman in Aussie motorsport history. She won her last Australian Rally Championship in 2008.

And after seeing her mum go through all that excitement, Molly decided to try it too.

Molly is now 26-years-old and the number one ranked female rally driver in the world after winning the FIA European Ladies Rally Championship.

Recently, she competed in the World Rally Championship and manged third place in the junior class in Neste Oil Rally Finland. In the past, she’s also won the Australian Motor Sport Foundation International Rising Star award and been crowned the British ladies Rally Champion.

Usually, Molly lives and races out of Italy. This weekend, however, Molly is back in her homeland and hanging out at the 2014 Coates Hire Rally on the Coffs Coast as a commentator and ambassador for the event. I took the opportunity to have a chat to her about all things relating to motorsport…

So… what exactly is the difference between regular driving and rally driving?

In rally driving, we have what is called ‘stages’. Overall, the rally will run for about 4 days and we’ll cover about 350km of stages, which are parts of roads (usually gravel or track road) and parts of the forest. We race one car at a time and each stage is between 15-30km. They add up each of your times from all the stages and the fastest person wins.

This yearm I’ve been competing in the junior world rally championships, which is a one-night series. All the junior drivers from all over the world compete in six rounds across Europe. Everyone has exactly the same cars so it all comes down to the skills of the driver. At the moment I’m the only Aussie and the only female competing in the series.

Molly in her rally car

The brilliant thing about rally driving is that once you get the helmet on and get in the car, there is no difference between a male and a female in their ability to be able to drive the car. But generally there aren’t many women – there just haven’t been many females involved, but that’s starting to change.

Why do you think it is that so few women are interested in it?

I think from the very ground level, when people start getting into the sport, more males get involved in the sport than females and then they begin to progress through the levels. It’s like a filtering process, as only the best go through. We’re seeing now that more women are doing well and competing at a higher level and it’s getting good publicity, so hopefully now more females will get involved earlier on and we’ll see that move up through the ranks in the chance in the future.

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Do you ever get any grief from the boys you compete with, or do they all respect you?

There’s a lot of friendly banter which is all good fun, but I think I’ve noticed that if you’re willing to put in the hard work, people will respect you whether you’re male or female. I’ve proved that I’m just as serious as any of the boys.

What is it that you like about it so much?

It’s quite hard to describe what it’s like. It’s an adrenaline rush, it’s a real challenge, you have a navigator next to you and they read out a shorthand description as you ride the road and it’s a real trust element. There’s also the challenge of driving through a piece of road that you don’t remember. You’re listening to this description of the road and trying to commit 100% down a forest road at incredibly fast speeds.

Is it dangerous?

Motorsports are a dangerous sport, but a lot of research goes into your safety – We take the safety aspect so seriously. the cars are built to be able to withstand quite a lot, they’re very strong and we wear all the safety equipment.

Molly

What kind of training do you actually do to prepare for an event like this?

There’s definitely a fitness aspect. Some of the rally days can be really warm, so being physically fit gives you the ability to concentrate throughout the day and not get fatigued. There’s also a lot of mental training that goes into preparing for the track. Spending a lot of time reviewing the roads, perfecting the transcript for the description of the road.

Do you ever have people saying, “all you’re doing is driving, surely you don’t have to be that fit”?

Yeah, definitely. I was actually working last weekend at a rally school and someone made that comment after we did a hot lap at the end of the day, which is a lap at full speed. They were actually surprised by how physical it actually was. There’s a lot going on! The last rally we did, my navigator had a heart rate monitor and we had a range of between 120 and 140 over one stage. So when you’re coding that for a few hours every day, it soon adds up.

Obviously your parents were very involved in getting you into rallying – is this the kind of future they always imagined for you?

No, not really. It’s a very difficult sport to commit for your whole life, I think they would’ve been happy with whatever path I chose but they are very supportive and proud of what I’m achieving.

My mum has been into it for years. My grandfather actually did a bit of rallying and so one day my mum decided she would navigate for him. From there, she started navigating for other drivers and then she went on to become Australian champion. She was very lucky to be able to make her hobby her career.

When I was younger, I didn’t really think it was at all weird that my mother was the competitor in the sport. Of course, my dad was involved but my mother was the high profile competitor – and it just felt normal.

I used to go and watch mum competing sometimes but i was never really interested for myself until I got my road license. My father was running a rally school and he wanted me and my sister to go out and learn to drive the rally cars before we had to negotiate traffic, so we could be confident driving. I went out, had a go and thought… this is the most fun thing I’ve ever done.

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Molly driving down a dirt road

What’s the ultimate dream for you?

At the moment, I’m trying to finish my season in the junior world championship and when I’m home I work for my dad in the rally school. My goal is to make a career out of rallying and be in a position where sponsorship can allow me to do this full time.

Do you think it helps with your regular on-road driving?

Yeah – to have a rally license you need a regular licence, so it makes you a safer driver as you can’t afford to lose that licene.

What would say to girls who have seen the sport but never really though about participating?

It’s something you really need to try to appreciate fully. Once you get past the anxiety of trying it, you enjoy it. I’d encourage anyone interested to just give it a shot. Everyone within the sport is so passionate, they all encourage you bring more people and its not something where you’ll be judged. Go to a rally school, get behind the wheel with some tuition and you can go to local meetings every month and get help.

Check out some of the other pictures from Molly’s adventures in rally driving…

And in other sports news from the week…

– This week, the Opals squad for the world championships in Turkey was announced.

The full squad is as follows: Rebecca Allen, Natalie Burton, Liz Cambage, Cayla Francis, Laura Hodges, Rachel Jarry, Tessa Lavey, Leilani Mitchell, Erin Phillips, Belinda Snell, Penny Taylor, and Marianna Tolo.

You’ll notice that a big name is missing – sadly, Lauren Jackson is still unable to join Australia at the world championships due to a knee injury. According to the ABC, it’s the first time in 16 years that the Opals have gone into a major international tournament without Jackson.

Good luck to all the girls and get well soon for Jackson.

– Surfer Sally Fitzgibbons is about to move into the number one spot on the women’s surf tour rankings, after former number one Carissa Moore was beaten in the fourth round and knocked out of the latest round in California. Congratulations, Sally – we know how hard you’ve been working for this – and best of luck to the other Australian girls on the tour circuit, including Stephanie Gilmore and Tyler Wright.

– Australia has managed a win in the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship this week; Minjee Lee had it in the bag after shooting a seven-under 65, which also broke the tournament record for the lowest-round score at 13-under 131 and four-day total at 29-under 547.

Have you seen anything in the sporting world this week that you’d like to talk about?

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