Molly Taylor tells us about her move from horse-riding to rallying, her upbringing surrounded by motorsport, and what she learnt from her time in Europe. She also reveals how she deals with any jealous reactions to her success.
WHEEL SISTERS: Molly, please introduce yourself.
Molly: My name is Molly, I live in Melbourne Australia and I am a professional rally driver. I am the 2016 Australian Rally Champion and a brand ambassador for Subaru Australia. I am also a member of the FIA World Rally Championship Commission, FIA Rally Commission, Australian Rally Commission and an ambassador for Dare to be Different.
WHEEL SISTERS: Molly, you are a well-known international rally driver and over the last 12 years you have participated in the European Rally Championship as well as in the World Rally Championship. In 2016 you made history by becoming the first woman and youngest ever person to win the Australian championship. Your passion for fast cars is no surprise. You grew up in a motorsport family with your mother Coral being a four-time Australian Rally Champion co-driver and your dad Mark a rally driver and owner of a rally school. With this background, was it natural for you to become a racing driver? I mean your first passion was your horse and competing in equestrian events.
Molly: I grew up in a motorsport-oriented family, however, I was never directly involved until I was around 16. When I was younger, I was really interested in horse-riding and it was my goal to go to the Olympics for Eventing. I started horse-riding competitively and pursued that for years. It was only when I got my licence to drive on the roads that I tried rallying for myself. After watching it for so long, I don’t think I appreciated what a buzz it actually was behind the wheel. I ended up selling my horse to buy a rally car. Once I began rallying, I was lucky in that I could draw on my parents’ experiences to learn faster.
Professional rally driver Molly studied at the University of Sydney and is a qualified personal trainer.
WHEEL SISTERS: Can you tell us a little bit about your way to the top?
Molly: I think I still have more to go to reach the top, but it’s certainly been a rollercoaster to get this far. I competed in Australia for a few years and then decided to leave everything behind and move to the UK in 2009. I stayed in Europe for 5 years, competing in the British, European and Junior World Championships. It was an incredible experience and has eventually led me to driving professionally, however, it was also extremely tough. I was young and inexperienced and in most cases learned things the hard way!
WHEEL SISTERS: At the time you decided to start a racing career, what were the reactions of your family and friends? Have you ever experienced jealousy?
Molly: My family has always been very supportive and I am very lucky to be surrounded by such great people. Of course there will be moments where you experience jealousy along the way. On some occasions I’ve had people think that they deserve an opportunity more than me, or try to undermine my sponsors, etc. However, I think it’s important to keep doing your thing and realise you won’t please everyone. Most of the time people don’t understand the full story or realise just how much you put into everything, only you know that. As long as I am true to myself and surround myself with good people, that’s all I need!
WHEEL SISTERS: In an interview you said that your mum and her crew mate, the champion driver Neal Bates, have probably been your biggest mentors throughout your career. Can you give us an insight into your work with them? How did they support you? What have you learned from them?
Molly: Growing up my Mum and Dad showed my sister and myself that turning your passion into a career is achievable. As a young girl watching my Mum rally professionally, I never considered that it wasn’t a place for women. I think that helped me more than I realised at the time. When I started driving, Neal became a huge mentor and coach. We did a lot of testing together and I would join their team when they were testing or on rallies as well. We are still on the phone to each other nearly every week.
WHEEL SISTERS: In your opinion, what does a rally driver need to have in order to become successful?
Molly: In order to be successful you need to have many things! Unfortunately the reality of our sport is that you have to have the sponsorship. You also need to like hard work, be able to adapt and learn on the run. Above all, you need to have the passion for driving, because you need a strong motivation to keep persisting when times are tough.
WHEEL SISTERS: Apart from your mum, who is your role model?
Molly: I’ve always looked up to Michèle Mouton and Fabrizia Pons. Not only because of what they achieved, but how they went about it. Closer to home, Neal Bates has also been a big role model.
Since 2016 Molly is working as a works driver for Subaru in Australia.
WHEEL SISTERS: What did you learn from participating in the European and World Rally championships?
Molly: I learnt so much from competing in the European and World Rally Championships – it’s hard to include it all! Competing on such a large stage taught me how to cope better with pressure and competing against such strong competition pushed my driving to another level. The nature of the rallies is so different, so I also learnt how to drive in many different conditions that I wouldn’t have had access to normally.
WHEEL SISTERS: Since 2016 you have been a works driver for Subaru in Australia and in the first year you won the championship. What has changed since you became a professional driver?
Molly: I feel like I’m living my dream! It’s different working within a larger professional team. You are one of the many people all bringing different skills to the table and I love being part of a team like that. There’s a different pressure to perform, but I am also able to focus my concentration on my job better. There’s also a lot of work we do outside of the car on the business side of things that I find really interesting.
WHEEL SISTERS: What does a normal working week look like for you? And what challenges do you have to deal with in your daily business?
Molly: It changes week to week, which I love. There is a lot of travel, either for events or dealership and marketing activities. When I am at home there is a lot of behind the scenes planning and organisational work that goes on, as well as physical training. I love having lots of projects on the go, so there’s never a dull moment! Day to day I’d say my challenges are trying to stay on top of everything in amongst so much travel. Normally I’m going somewhere almost every week, so sometimes staying on top of everything can be a challenge.
Molly says: “But, ultimately, the thing that is great about motorsport is that the stopwatch doesn’t know your gender. If you can do the job, you can do the job.”
WHEEL SISTERS: If you look back – what had the biggest impact on improving your driving skills?
Molly: So much, it’s hard to pinpoint just one or two things. Overall, throwing myself into difficult scenarios outside my comfort zone have made me learn and adapt faster, which gives you lots of ways to improve. It has also helped to build confidence, which is a huge factor in rallying.
WHEEL SISTERS: Off the track: You hold a Bachelor degree from the University of Sydney, have a Certificate in Automotive Studies and you are a qualified personal trainer. What would your profession be, if you weren’t a successful rally driver?
Molly: Who knows! I love business, so I think I would still be involved in the sport from that side. Maybe a team owner or manager.
WHEEL SISTERS: I guess you spend your free time doing a lot of sport, also because motorsport requires a high level of fitness. When it comes to strength training, what is your favourite exercise?
Molly: Given that we can’t be in the car a lot, most of my training is done in the gym. It’s hard to pick a favourite because I love the variety, but right now I’d say I enjoy deadlifting and chin ups. They are things I’ve been working on over the past few months.
WHEEL SISTERS: Back to motorsport: Have you experienced any sexism during races and, if so, how did you deal with it?
Molly: Yes, I think we have all had scenarios where people assume something because of your gender. I try to not let it get to me and if anything, use it as a bit of extra motivation. On the whole though, I think it’s more common that people are supportive rather than the other way around.
WHEEL SISTERS: What were the particular challenges for you as a woman in motorsport?
Molly: I remember when I first went to Europe I felt like I had to work a bit harder to prove myself. But, ultimately, the thing that is great about motorsport is that the stopwatch doesn’t know your gender. If you can do the job, you can do the job. I think people respect the work you are doing and the attitude with which you do it. I’ve always tried to focus on that.
Molly is an ambassadorf for Susie Wolffs initiative “Dare to be Different” and helps to encourage women to get involved into motorsport.
WHEEL SISTERS: What can be done to encourage more women to get involved in motorsport?
Molly: Initiatives such as Dare to be Different are doing fantastic work to encourage more female participation. We need to shine a light on the women succeeding already and show young girls how great motorsport is and that there’s a place for them. If more young girls are exposed to this then we will get more participation in the years to come.
WHEEL SISTERS: What advice would you give to girls or women looking forward to getting into motorsports?
Molly: Get stuck in! I would say that any negative perception, in most cases, is not the reality. Motorsport is a great community and everyone is welcome. There are local clubs everywhere that would love to have more women involved.
WHEEL SISTERS: Last year you participated in circuit races. How did you find them?
Molly: I loved it! It was one of the most challenging things I’ve done since moving to Europe, but it reminded me how much you learn when you take on something difficult. It was a jump in the deep end but it was also a huge buzz.
WHEEL SISTERS: What are your sporting goals in the upcoming months or years?
Molly: At the moment the upcoming rally plans are unclear. I’ve been working on some plans to compete overseas again, however, everything is on hold at the moment. Hopefully by the end of the year we can get back up and running and see what happens!