She’s been called the fastest female rally driver on the planet, and she has the silverware to back it up. But there’s another side to Molly Taylor that doesn’t live for speed and adrenalin.
Molly Taylor, just 27 years old, lives in the Sydney Hills with her parents on nine acres of picturesque undulating countryside. It was a delightfully sunny day when Sydney Hills Living visited her as she took a very brief, but well earned, break after a quick trip to Europe for a rally.
It’s very quiet and peaceful at the Taylor residence as Henry the female dog leads us out to the verandah for a chat.
This is a far cry from the noise and excitement of rallying crowds and cars in Australia and Europe, where Molly is cementing her credentials as a driver to watch.
Molly is the daughter of rally drivers, so it’s probably inevitable that she would at least try the sport. Her mother, Coral, is a four-time Australian rally champion co-driver and
father Mark also made a name in rally driving. He is now very highly regarded as an expert rally instructor.
Molly boarded at high school in Armidale, and was smitten by horse riding. She became an accomplished equestrian competitor, but then she was introduced to cars by her parents. That changed everything.
“I went to boarding school in Armidale for four years. It has a big horse scene and a good riding school, and I love horses so I loved it there,” said Molly. “That was part of our motivation for coming here to the Hills, because there are a lot of horses around here. I haven’t ridden in a few years but I still love horses.
“But then 100 horsepower took over from one horsepower, and cars took over my life. I grew up in a motorsport mad family, and I watched my Mum competing in rallies, but it wasn’t really until I got my P plates that I got involved myself. When I started driving on the road my Dad wanted us to go through a rally school, to learn how to drive away from all the distractions of the road so we’d be more confident managing a car first. But that was probably a mistake because as soon as I drove on gravel I loved it, and I’ve been rallying ever since!”
It takes a highly geared competitive streak to perform well in rallying, but Molly very quickly showed she had the tenacity — and the talent — to win.
“It’s in my family to be very competitive I think,” she explained. “I used to compete on horses and thought I wanted to go to the Olympics for equestrian events; then the competition bug took hold in driving. I think I was always going to be doing something competitive."
“My Mum’s been competing since she was 18 years old, when she started navigating for my grandfather, and then took it up professionally in the Toyota factory team for 15 years and won the championship four times. My father used to compete in the Australian rally championship. He won his category in the Australian championship but it was as a hobby rather than a profession.
“All my family has been competing, but it was never pushed on me to do it; I decided I wanted to, but it’s great to have the support of your family for whatever you choose to do. It also helps that it’s the same thing they’re passionate about.”
Striking out on her own
Molly had just turned 20 when she packed her bags and headed to Europe to try her luck in the rally scene there. She quickly stamped her name in the record books in European rallying.
“I went to the UK, initially just to do one rally because I wanted to benchmark myself against the young guys over there and see what my pace was like,” she said. “There are more competitions and more rallies over there. I decided to defer my university degree and go there and do one event.
“Then I got the opportunity to go back and do the whole season, and I ended up over there for five years. It’s a lot bigger, with a lot more people and a lot more competition.”
Home ground, home success
While Molly is a constant traveller between Australia and Europe, this year she is concentrating on the Australian Rally Championship, and is currently coming second. She won the recent National Capital Rally in the ACT, and is exciting crowds with her competitive spirit.
“The rallying in Australia is fantastic. We’ve got great roads and the competition is very strong, but it’s just not as dense as Europe.
“I won the National Capital Rally, my first round win in the Australian Championship, and it’s something I wasn’t expecting so soon. We’re second in the championship at the moment, but it’s very close,” she said modestly.
“Coming back to Australia, I knew the guys here are very competitive and a lot of them have done it for ten years, while I’ve come back from overseas and a lot of it is pretty new to me.”
Not so secret women’s business
Being a young woman in what is very much a bloke’s game doesn’t deter Molly at all, and she has little time for focusing on being a token woman in the sport.
“Being a female in rallying doesn’t really figure in my thinking,” Molly pointed out. “My Mum was competing at a high level in Australia so it was normal for me, and I never saw it as a barrier, or ‘not normal’. That’s a good thing.
“The thing I’ve learnt about being female in motorsport is that as long as you’re out there doing the same job, being professional and being committed to what you’re doing people will respond to your attitude and your drive. If you’re not good enough you can’t get around it. People respect you for the job you’re doing. I’ve never really had a situation where people haven’t supported me.”
The idea of being a role model for young girls surprises her.
“I never really considered the role model side of it because I’m still at a really early stage of my career, but I’ve found since I got back to Australia that a lot of girls now watch rallying and see it as an option now that a girl is doing it,” she said.
It’s a tough business
Molly has no illusions about what it takes to succeed in rallying and is aware of the risks, but puts them behind her.
“If you’re worried about being hurt you’re not really concentrating on what you should be doing,” said Molly. “If you’re scared of what you’re doing you’re probably not doing the right thing. Safety is a big priority in rallying. It’s statistically safer rallying than riding horses. It looks very wild and dangerous but safety is a big priority in rallying.”
There’s much more to rallying than driving a car. Molly puts in very long hours building the business through sponsorships, and working to find extra funds.
“It’s very much a business. For me at the moment, ironically, the rallying itself is almost the smallest component when you finally get to relax and have a drive. Certainly the sponsorship side and running it as a business is the only way I get to compete. I do enjoy the challenge of it though.
“I also work at a rally school every weekend, and during the week I do a lot of contracting work for driver training at track days and defensive driving courses for car manufacturers. I also do some quest writing for Drive.”
At home in the Hills
Her ambition to pursue a professional international rallying career takes precedence, but when she’s not working Molly appreciates the peace and quiet of her rural setting in the Hills.
“Ideally, I’d like to drive here and overseas. My immediate goal is to win the Australian Rally Championship. I’d like to tick that off the list and then do some more competing overseas,” she said.
“I travel so much, so it’s nice to come home to your own bed, and somewhere relaxing and quiet. In Europe you don’t have space like this, and it’s one of the things I realised when I was first over there.
“When I come home I appreciate the open spaces we have here, and the lifestyle we have in Australia is very hard to beat.
“I like the space here in the Hills. It’s relaxed, and the general vibe of the area and the people are a nice mix between the city and the country. It’s the best of both worlds.”