PHOTO: Australia’s first female rally champion Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes celebrate on the finish podium in Coffs Harbour.
COFFS COAST (NSW) – Molly Taylor made history as the first woman to win the Australian Rally Championship after taking the podium at Kennards Hire Rally Australia today.
The 28-year-old Sydneysider and co-driver Bill Hayes won the Kumho Tyre ARC round of the three-day event at the end of their first season in a factory-supported Subaru Impreza.
Mark Pedder of Melbourne was on course to win the rally in a Peugeot 208 Maxi, but was relegated to second place after receiving a one-minute penalty for arriving late at a time control on the penultimate stage; he finished 39.3sec. behind Taylor. Harry Bates of Canberra came third in a Toyota Corolla S2000.
Taylor started the event in the middle of the tightest three-way battle in championship history. She trailed four-time champion Simon Evans by five points and was one point ahead of 21-year-old Bates.
While Taylor took a steady approach, Evans and Bates both lost significant time across the weekend with tyre punctures or blowouts. In winning the rally, she earned enough to beat Evans to the championship by just two points.
Taylor’s victory was the climax of a long, determined campaign to reach the top in the sport and match the example of her mother Coral, a four-time Australian champion co-driver.
She returned to compete in Australia full-time last year after several seasons overseas, during which she won the European and British ladies championships and several honours in junior categories of the World Rally Championship.
Regarded in recent years as the world’s number one female rally driver, she has been mentored by the legendary Michele Mouton of France, the only woman to win a world championship rally.
“It is certainly the best motorsport moment I have had for sure,” said Taylor, also the daughter and granddaughter of rally drivers.
“I certainly didn’t expect to finish up where we did and, saying that, the whole year has been completely unpredictable so we never wrote anything off.
“It has always been the dream and to have this opportunity with Subaru and do it professionally and do it in our first year with them is beyond what I thought was possible.
“I knew at some point we would be able to do it together, but I thought it would come in a year or two.”
The ARC finish podium at the World Rally Championship event was a family affair, with Coral Taylor and Harry Bates’ father Neal winning their fourth Classic championship in a 1980 Toyota Celica world rally replica.
Bates Junior this weekend drove the car in which his father and Coral Taylor won their fourth Australian Rally Championship in 2008.
Final results, Kumho Tyre Australian Rally Championship (Rd 5 of 5):
1. Molly Taylor/Bill Hayes, Subaru Impreza RX STi, 3:08:06.5
2. Mark Pedder/Dale Moscatt, Peugeot 208 Maxi, + 39.3
3. Harry Bates/John McCarthy, Toyota Corolla S2000, + 1:46.7
4. Mick Patton/Bernie Webb, Mitsubishi Evo X, +2:52.5
5. Simon Evans/Ben Searcy, Subaru Impreza WRX, +0:31.6
Kumho Tyre Australian Rally Championship driver standings (final):
Molly Taylor 329 points
Simon Evans 327
Harry Bates 321