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The Excel Rally Series has got a lot to answer for. At the age of 52, and after owning two Geminis, I decided my last car before a “dignified” retirement would be a Hyundai Excel.  

Glenn Farrant (of “I beat Ed Ordynski” fame) has proved beyond doubt just how quick these little cars are, and so the journey began. I bought a $1000 twin cam Excel at auction (that was an experience in itself – my last experience with a “birthing centre” was when my first child was born!) with 125,000km on the clock, and we started getting it into rally spec.  

Anthony Edwards from Automotive Gadgets has done some miraculous work in fabricating all the bits you need for a rally car and also putting them where they are meant to go.  Peter and Allan Muir at Bond Roll Bars, did the cage, and the suspension is by Drummond (40 mm non-adjustable).

Like Ed Ordynski, prior to the Lithgow Rally 2007, I had never driven a FWD on dirt, so I needed some guidance on how to drive one of these things.  Molly Taylor, having started out in the Gemini Series about two years ago, has developed at an exponential rate.  She now drives the Mitsubishi Mirage at ARC level and is leading her class.  

Earlier this year she did the famous John Haugland ice driving rally course in Norway. Not bad for an 18 year old still on P plates! She has benefited enormously from her parents – Mark and Coral Taylor – as well as from some experienced co-drivers in the form of Mick Ryan (now running Sideways Action Rally Schools) and Dale Moscatt, who is well known to the rally community.  It was without any hesitation that I agreed to Molly giving me pointers on how to drive the Excel.

I have to say that it took a few laps of the 4WD circuit at Oran Park before I got rid of those old RWD habits, but once that happened a whole new world opened up.  Yes – I have gone over to the dark side.  

For such a basic car, these things are easy to drive and quick. Molly confided a great driving secret to me which I will now taunt other Excel drivers with!  She and Neal Bates did back to back runs in the Mirage at Oran Park and Neal was two seconds faster than her over about 900m.  Mick Ryan sat in with both drivers and took notes, and after communicating the results, Molly was within 0.5 seconds of Neal.  

There are two ways of finding out the secret – get an Excel and contact Sideways Action about getting Molly to show you what to do, or get an Excel and come to a rally and ply me with quality wine. I chose the first option, and maybe aspiring Excel drivers should do the same!

Having terrorised Molly, she took me for a fang in the Sideways Action Evo 8 as a form of retribution.  I have some video of Molly driving a Gemini very tentatively at Taree a couple of years ago, and it is nothing short of astonishing how confidently she could throw the Evo 8 around in such a short space of time.  I think it comes down to two words: talent and focus.

The Excel Series has the capacity to produce some absorbing battles at a cost effective price  (eg: Glenn Farrant v Ed Ordynski at  Lithgow 2007, and Paul Batten v Glenn Farrant at Bega 2007), and it is for this reason that the series has a “buzz” about it. One make series’ also generally have a great camaraderie and the Excel Series is no exception, and the post rally stories are several multiples of the engine capacity!

Guess who will be teaching my teenage daughter how to drive – not  me!

View the in-car Hyundai Excel footage HERE

Footage of Molly Taylor driving the Lancer Evo 8 is HERE

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