Production World Rally Championship combination of driver Neal Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor roll out their new Toyota Corolla S2000 at a shakedown (practice session) held on private land at Pottsville yesterday
Production World Rally Championship combination of driver Neal Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor roll out their new Toyota Corolla S2000 at a shakedown (practice session) held on private land at Pottsville yesterday CATHY ADAMS

Repco Rally starts to hot up

CANBERRA co-driver Coral Taylor describes rally driving as the complete commitment between a driver, a co-driver, a set of driving notes, the car and the road.

When your car is travelling at 170km/h on a gravel road into a blind corner which is lined by trees you understand why. Perhaps Taylor should have just said it’s intense.

It’s an intensity that lasts longer than just the four days of competition.

Yesterday, Taylor and her driver Neal Bates took part in the Production World Rally Championships shakedown – the test drive – at Pottsville and today and tomorrow the pair will be doing 11 hours of reconnaissance of the Tweed and Kyogle Shire World Rally Championship route.

Driving the special stages – the competitive stages – in a regular car at the speed limit, Taylor will frantically scribble driving notes describing the terrain in what is one of the most important parts of the Repco Rally Australia that will start this Thursday night in Murwillumbah.

“It’s absolutely crucial to have good notes,” Taylor told The Northern Star.

“We are allowed to do two passes of every stage. We write notes during the first pass and check them on the second.

“It can feel a bit tedious when you are doing a long day from 6am to 5pm but you really need to concentrate. You are travelling at 60km/h but you have to visualise the track at 160km/h so something that could look quite innocuous could be crucial at that speed.

“A wrong note during the reccy (reconnaissance) can mean the end of your rally when you get to competition.”

With a burden like that falling on the 48-year-old’s shoulder you would think that that would be enough to keep her occupied during a rally.

Not so. She is also the team manager of the Toyota-powered team.

“Having a team management role is quite common for co-drivers in smaller teams,” Taylor said.

“The bigger teams that will be here this week have a lot of peripheral workers so the co-driver can just co-drive but in the smaller teams, especially in this country, the co-driver takes on the role to manage everything other than the car.

“I don’t get involved in building the car or servicing the car but I help wash the car or drive the truck or anything else. There is a lot of work involved in looking after sponsors, particularly on the corporate side of things, budgets, logistics and the like when the team goes away.

“It’s very busy but I love it.”

Taylor, who is one of six women co-drivers at the Repco Rally Australia and an NRMA director, is one of the most respected co-drivers in the country.

With Bates in the driving seat, the mother-of-two has won four Australian Rally Championships and 34 ARC rallies during her stellar 30-year career.

Taylor’s father Norm Fritter was a rally veteran who enticed his then 18-year-old daughter to co-drive for him in the 1979 Round Australia Trial.

She quickly became hooked.

She married rally driver Mark Taylor and one of her daughters, Molly, is earning a reputation as an up-and-coming driver.

“It’s very exciting but also scary as a mother,” Taylor said.

“But she used to ride horses competitively and she was an eventer and if you have ever sat on a cross-country course and watched people come through it’s terrifying.

“As a mother I used to hold my breath at every jump. People say to me I must really worry about her now she’s driving in rallies but for me, she’s sitting inside cars with a lot of safety equipment around her which is a hell of a lot different to sitting on the back of a horse with one small helmet on at high speeds through the trees.”


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