While not making the final cut for the inaugural FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy, Australia’s Molly Taylor is excited to have been involved and says it will have ongoing benefits.

Molly, 22, already has an exciting year lined up, as one of just six young drivers to win a ‘scholarship’ to take part in the FIA WRC Academy, a sub-series of the elite World Rally Championship.

But in a separate opportunity, she also won the right to be one of 18 hopefuls taking part in a shoot-out for the FIA Institute programme which is designed to prepare young drivers to compete at the top of their sport. The three-day selection tested young drivers from across Europe, the UK, [where Molly is based] and the US, for the 10 Academy places available.  

“I’d like to congratulate the guys who won places – it’s a great achievement,” Molly says.

“For sure, it’s disappointing not to get through, but it was really valuable for me to have the opportunity to benchmark myself against these guys. I feel incredibly privileged to have been selected to take part because I have learned so much.

“The selection process was made up of driving tests, media, fitness, psychology and team exercises. I was happy with many of my results, so that was personally very satisfying, however I lacked the experience out on the track – but it was certainly interesting to watch the dynamics of 18 competitive people going through these activities together!”

The young Australian – the only woman in the shoot-out – says the calibre of her rivals was staggering, with most of them being full time circuit racers. She admits feeling a little intimidated by their experience, especially on the race track, but was pleased to get some of her own back when the ‘students’ were tested on drifting and the skidpan, which is closer to her comfort zone.

“They are a great bunch of guys and I had a lot of fun working with them in what was an awesome experience. This is a fantastic initiative from the FIA and a great benchmark for young drivers to aspire to.

“For me the reality now is about gearing up for my first event this year – the Sunseeker Rally in two weeks’ time. It’s the first round of the British Rally Championship series and I’ve bought a Fiesta like the one I’ll drive in the WRC. I took it to Sweden for three days of ice driving before going to Austria, and it is just a fantastic little car.

“Of course, between all of this I still have a job to do at M-Sport. They have been fabulous about all the time I have had away, but I’m not paid to flit around from one adventure to the other, so I better put my head down again.”

FIA Institute performance manager Alex Wurz described the shootout as an exceptional event with some incredible driving and said all 18 drivers were worthy of being on the programme.

“We would certainly like to see the six not selected this year coming back next time around.”

Colleague Robert Reid admitted the standard of competitors was higher and more evenly matched than they had anticipated and the final choice was an extremely difficult one for the four judges involved.

The WRC Academy that Molly will contest this year is a specially tailored training program designed to develop the best young rally drivers into world-class competitors. They will contest six European rounds of the world series in identical Fiesta R2s. The first round is in Portugal, over the weekend of March 25-27.
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