Rally champion Molly Taylor prepares for her toughest test as the first Australian woman to compete at the Dakar Rally


January is a special time of year for Molly Taylor.

Key points:

  • In 2022, Molly Taylor will become the first Australian woman to compete in the Dakar Rally

  • Australian Toby Price will be aiming for his third Dakar Rally title in the motorcycle category

  • Two Saudi Arabian female drivers will race in the Dakar for the first time in the event's 44-year history

As a little girl, she recalls gathering with her motorsport-fanatic family to watch the Dakar Rally.

"For as long as I can remember, every single January, the Dakar was like a religion in our house," Taylor said.

"I kept thinking: 'One day I'm going to do it.'

"But, for so long, it was like this far-fetched dream."

Now 33, that dream is about to come true for Taylor as she becomes the first Australian woman to take part in the most-gruelling endurance race in the world.

"The Dakar Rally is the toughest motorsport event in the world and that challenge really excites me," Taylor said.

"I've never done anything like this before."

Taylor will team up with Dale Moscatt as part of the Can-Am Factory South Racing team, where they'll tackle 13 stages across desert in the Arabian Peninsula, which is almost the size of France.

Molly Taylor will be driving with Dale Moscatt for Can-Am Factory South Racing in the Dakar Rally.(Facebook: Can-Am Factory South Racing)

"You're doing thousands and thousands of kilometres in soaring temperatures in the middle of the desert," Taylor explained.

"It's about finding your fighting spirit and embracing the adventure."

The Dakar is one of the biggest tests of physical and mental attrition.

Peak fitness is needed to be able to withstand the temperatures and concentrate for long periods.

According to Taylor, having the right mindset is just as crucial.

"A lot can go wrong. You may need to change punctures or parts on cars in the middle of the desert.

"Everything gets thrown at you and you need to do whatever it takes to make it to the end."

Toby Price, who will be trying to win a third Dakar rally title in the motorcycle category, has put the race on the map for Australians.   (Getty Images: Dean Mouhtaropoulos)

Taylor credits fellow Australian Toby Price for putting Dakar on the map for Australians.

The 34-year-old will be aiming for his third Dakar Rally title in the motorcycle category, after a serious crash forced him to withdraw in 2021.

"Toby's done incredibly well at the Dakar, so it's awesome to now be a part of it too," she said.

2021 Extreme E champion Molly Taylor, centre, and teammate Johan Kristoffersson, left, were the inaugural winners of the Extreme E title.(Getty Images: James Bearne)

While the Dakar represents a new world of racing for Taylor, she's already had a feel of driving in the desert during the recent Extreme E series.

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Taylor and her driving partner, Johan Kristoffersson, went on to win the inaugural 2021 Extreme E Championship for Team Rosberg X Racing.

"It's pretty surreal to take out the first Extreme E series," she said.

For Taylor, the radical series — which debuted in the Saudi Arabian desert — set up the perfect platform for the Dakar

"It was such an amazing program to be a part of, because you don't really know what to expect."

The Extreme E is an off-road series, racing electric SUVs in remote areas of the world impacted by climate change, in a bid to raise awareness of the issue and promote sustainability.

It's also the first racing event that uses mixed teams, with men and women sharing equal driving duties.

Two Saudi females to race in the Dakar

For the first time in the 44-year history of the Dakar Rally, two female drivers from Saudi Arabia will compete in the event.

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There are still many concerns over the human rights of women in the nation but Taylor believes the inclusion of Mashael Al-Obaidan and Dania Akeel is an important step.

"I think it's great seeing that change and giving women the opportunity to show they can do the job just as well," she said.

The two Saudi females competing this year are part of Taylor's South racing team family.

"I had the opportunity to race with them recently in a smaller event in Saudi and they're just awesome," she said.

"They're great drivers, fun to be around and what they're doing for females in Saudi is very inspiring."

A trailblazer

Taylor, herself, has been regarded as a trailblazer in what is still, largely, a male-dominated sport.

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In 2014, she became the first female to clinch a podium finish at the Junior World Rally Championships in Finland, after finishing third.

A year later, she was awarded the prestigious Peter Brock Medal and, in 2016, Taylor became the first female driver — and youngest at the time — to win the Australian Rally Championship.

"Being the youngest to win it at the time was pretty cool and, from a visibility standpoint, being able to spread that message to young girls has been great," she said.

For Taylor, just winning the championship was a massive dream.

"Whether I was the first, fifth or 100th female to do it, I don't think that takes away from that personal achievement."

Born to race

Rallying is in Taylor's blood.

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Her father is former championship rally driver, Mark Taylor. Her mother, Coral, is a four-time Australian rally champion co-driver, while her late grandfather, Norm Fritter, was also a rally driver.

While Taylor is proud of her motorsport pedigree, it's her mother who has influenced her most.

"Mum would go off to work and that involved going to the other side of the country and tearing around in a forest," Taylor said.

"As a young girl, I just thought that was normal and what everyone's mum's did."

With Molly Taylor now inspiring a new generation of fans, the woman who led the way for her, is never far from her mind.

"Through Mum's example, I learned stereotypes don't matter because, once you're in the car, it becomes irrelevant what gender you are."

The Dakar Rally runs from January 1 to 14.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news



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