January is a special time of year for Molly Taylor.
In 2022, Molly Taylor will be the first Australian woman to compete in the Dakar Rally
Australian Toby Price will aim for his third Dakar Rally title in the motorcycle category
Two Saudi women drivers will drive in Dakar for the first time in the event’s 44-year history
As a little girl, she remembers being with her motorsport fanatic family to watch the Dakar Rally.
“For as long as I can remember, every single January, Dakar was like a religion in our house,” Taylor said.
“I kept thinking, ‘One day I’ll do this.’
“But for so long it was like this far out dream.”
Now 33, that dream is coming true for Taylor as she becomes the first Australian woman to take part in the most grueling endurance race in the world.
“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 will tackle 13 stages across the desert of the Arabian Peninsula, which is almost the size of France.
“You drive thousands and thousands of miles in soaring temperatures in the middle of the desert,” Taylor explained.
“It’s about finding your fighting spirit and embracing adventure.”
Dakar is one of the biggest tests of physical and mental attrition.
Peak fitness is necessary 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.
Taylor credits other Australian Toby Price for putting Dakar on the map for Australians.
The 34-year-old will aim for his third Dakar Rally title in the motorcycle category, after a severe crash forced him to retire in 2021.
“Toby has done incredibly well in Dakar, so it’s great now to be a part of it too,” she said.
2021 Extreme E champion
While Dakar represents a new world of racing for Taylor, she has already had a sense of driving in the desert during the recent Extreme E-Series.
Taylor and her driving partner, Johan Kristoffersson, won the first 2021 Extreme E Championship for Team Rosberg X Racing.
“It’s pretty surreal to take the first Extreme E series out,” she said.
For Taylor, the radical series – which debuted in the Saudi desert – created the perfect platform for Dakar
“It was such a great program to be a part of, because you do not really know what to expect.”
Extreme E is an off-road series that races electric SUVs in remote areas of the world affected by climate change, in an effort to raise awareness of the issue and promote sustainability.
It is also the first race to use mixed teams, where men and women share equal driving tasks.
Two Saudi females are to drive in 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.
There are still many concerns about women’s human rights in the nation, but Taylor believes the inclusion of Mashael Al-Obaidan and Dania Akeel is an important step.
“I think it’s great to see that change and give women the opportunity to show that they can do the job just as well,” she said.
The two Saudi women competing this year are part of Taylor’s Southern racing team family.
“I had the opportunity to ride with them recently at a minor event in Saudi and they are just amazing,” she said.
“They are good drivers, fun to be around, and what they do for women in Saudi is very inspiring.”
Taylor himself has been considered a pioneer in what is still largely a male-dominated sport.
In 2014, she became the first woman to win a podium place at the Junior World Rally Championship 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 the 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, it’s been great to be able to spread that message to young girls,” she said.
For Taylor, just winning the championship was a huge dream.
“Whether I was the first, fifth or 100th woman to do it, I do not think it takes away the personal achievement.”
Born to race
Rally is in Taylor’s blood.
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 is her mother who has influenced her the most.
“As a young girl, I just thought it was normal and what everyone’s mom was doing.”
As Molly Taylor now inspires a new generation of fans, the woman who led the way for her is never far from her mind.
The Dakar Rally runs from January 1st to 14th.