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What a few weeks!!  Back into the Australian summer and it has been just flat out trying to get the car and the truck organised for Rally Queensland in between a trip to the Australian Institute of Sport for the CAMS Women’s Driver Development Program.

I had a fantastic time at the AIS and took away a heap of really useful information. I think it helped a lot to have been there before which allowed me to really concentrate on the specific things I needed to work on. The Women’s and Rally camps were run pretty much together so we were able to learn a heap from each other, although it was a bit daunting lining up for the beep test next to Brendo (Reeves) who managed to get to 14.1! We are both really competitive and we’ve had a bet on what score we can each reach by the next camp in June.

The camp really was a great experience and it certainly helps to make sure you have the right preparation for a rally and the right approach to the events. The benefits showed especially in Queensland where it was really hot and fitness and hydration played a big part in being able to maintain my complete focus over the two days. Apart from the awesome food at the dining hal, one of the best parts was the recovery session we had after the beep test. The AIS facilities were just incredible…..you can see why Australia produces some of the best athletes in the world.

For the recovery session we had to spend a few minutes in a spa and then one minute in a 7 – 10 degree ‘plunge pool’ (which felt like an hour!). Whilst the plunge pool isn’t very pleasant while you’re in there, it was amazing how much better you feel at the end of it. The whole camp was really well organised and we got to cover a huge range of subjects from nutrition through to media training, and even self massage with tennis balls!

It was a huge effort to get to Rally Queensland , there was just so much to do so it was a lot of late nights. I have to say a huge thank you to Dad for all his help because I wouldn’t have made it otherwise!

Queensland was just unreal. I was so nervous coming up to the rally, having virtually no idea what to expect. But I was just so excited to be there - it was definitely the best experience I’ve had in rallying to date. The whole week of the rally I tried to make every day last as long as possible because I just didn’t want it to end!

The stages were really technical, with a lot of really fast sections but also lots of narrow up and down hill roads. The downhill suited the Mirage but we struggled a bit on the up-hills! Except for one excursion backwards off the top of a crest, we managed to get to the finish of the first day without too many dramas. I couldn’t believe it when I found out we had ended up 9th for the Heat.

Pulling up to the Super Special stage at the Nambour Showgrounds on Saturday night, I couldn’t believe how many people were there! I was so nervous, especially as the chicanes looked narrow and were filled with water. I had a blast though…..I could virtually straight line the Mirage through the chicanes and keep it flat around the whole track, just using my left foot on the brake so it would have sounded very loud. (Although nothing like those S2000 cars – they sounded awesome!)

The Sunday stages were a repeat of the Saturday stages and I found I was getting more and more confident with the second pass through each stage. I was a little anxious going into the second heat, not wanting to do anything silly and just consolidate on the good result from Heat 1. Having said that – I also wanted to see how much I could beat my times from the day before! At the beginning of SS12 I said to Dale that I had braked too early for the right hander after the fast stuff at the speccy point. So this time I would wait till just over the crest to start braking. What I didn’t realise was that by keeping it flat over the crest the car would get very light and I would lose half the braking distance I thought I had. So the bank on the outside of the corner helped keep the rear of the car tucked in! We still managed to beat our previous time on that stage, which was encouraging.

At the Haugland Rally School , one of the tricks John Haugland suggested was to write with your ‘opposite’ hand a few minutes before the start to engage both sides of your brain, so there is no delay in your reaction times when you start the stage. Dale and I decided to test the theory, so as he went to book in at the control he passed me a blank page on his notes and a pen. Our motto for the weekend had been “momentum is my friend” – trying to keep as much corner speed as possible, particularly up those hills. So being a lefty, I started writing this with my right hand – which is really hard. I was concentrating very hard and the control officials said to Dale, “Wow, she seems to be really focused this weekend, look at her concentrating”. So Dale quickly told them how I had just started some schooling, and was learning how to write.

 

When Dale hopped back into the car, he held the page up at the window to show the control officials who sat there laughing and shaking their heads. (It looked liked something a toddler had written – you could barely read it.) One of the control officials leaned in and said “All that money your parents put into your schooling!” I had no idea what they were all laughing at!

The theory seemed to work though, except for one corner where we ran a bit wide and hit the front left on a bank, bending the lower control arm and tie rod. The left front wheel sat further back than it should and we certainly got a lot of looks trying to do a ten point turn to book out of regroup at the service park with smoke pouring off the tyre. That service was pretty hectic but the guys did an awesome job to get us back on the road as straight as possible.

I just want to say a huge thank you to Bill, Trent, Shane, Frank, Mick and Dad - I can’t thank them enough for all their work over the weekend. Also to Dale for an awesome job. I learnt so much, the pace noting was something pretty new to me so to have someone with such experience was a huge benefit. A big congrats to Brendo for an awesome 3rd. He had a heap of pressure and had spent hardly any time in the car prior to the rally so to finish with a podium is unreal, I’m really happy for him.

Thanks also to Silverstone Tyres, which were awesome the whole event, despite the hot conditions and rough roads; the Dutton Rally National Series and RallySchool.com.au for getting us over the line!

I still have a lot more to learn but being a part of the event was so exciting and I just can’t wait to get back in the car. The Quit Forest Rally in W.A. will be something different again, in conditions I have never competed in before. Bring it on!

Molly

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