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PHOTO: From left, Jutta Kleinschmidt, Molly Taylor and Fabrizia Pons after the Qatar training program.

AUSTRALIAN international rally driver Molly Taylor has won a start in next year’s Sealine Cross Country Rally in Qatar after finishing runner-up in a desert racing training and selection event.

Taylor was one of nine drivers and nine co-drivers, all women, who spent five days on the joint FIA Women in Motorsport and Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) program.

The inaugural event was to find one female crew to contest the Sealine Rally, part of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, next April. However, organisers were so pleased with the success of the project, they announced funding for an additional two cars to compete.

New Zealand driver Emma Gilmour and Lisette Bakker from the Netherlands came first, with Taylor in second, co-driven by Yasmeen Elmajed from Jordan. Cristina Gutierrez Herrero from Spain and Lara Vanneste from Belgium will team up in the third entry.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” says Taylor, who flew to Qatar a week after claiming second place in the 2015 Australian Rally Championship.

“I’m really grateful to the QMMF and the FIA Women In Motorsport Commission for creating such an incredible initiative. It was so exciting to be part of it, and now to be able to return to Qatar to compete in the Sealine Rally is a new opportunity,and I will be grabbing it with both hands.”

Under the expert guidance of 2001 Dakar Rally winner Jutta Kleinschmidt and world rally and cross-country winning co-driver Fabrizia Pons, the 18 women went through an intense training programme in the desert, covering all areas of the art of cross country rallying, including driving skills, dune and sand training, navigation, mechanics and tactical awareness.

“The chance to learn from Jutta and Fabrizia doesn’t happen every day and I feel very privileged to have spent the week with them and gain so much from their expertise and experience. They are really inspiring women,” Taylor says.”

The project, which was the brainchild of Michèle Mouton, President of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, Kleinschmidt and QMMF President Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiya, supports and promotes the participation of women in cross country rallying. There were 85 applications from entrants in 39 countries before the final 18, including Taylor, were selected.

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 contested the British, European and World Rally Championships, winning the British Ladies Champion two years in a row and the inaugural European Rally Championship Ladies Trophy and becoming recognised as the fastest female rally driver in the world.

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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