In rally driving, you’re always going by the seat of your pants. In circuit racing, you know down to the microsecond what you should be doing. We’re winging it a lot more. There’s a lot less control.
You are doing every corner effectively for the first time. Listening to the co-driver, trusting the notes that you’ve written – but then we don’t know specifically the braking point for every corner. You have your pace notes, which is a description of how fast you think the road is, but when you get there…
The grip is different depending on the time of day, or whether or not there’s been rain. In the last rally a kangaroo jumped down in front of me. That’s obviously something that you’re not prepared for. I guess it’s just that variability. It’s much more inconsistent.
We hit the kangaroo unfortunately. Disappointing.
You’re always sliding to some degree. It’s just a matter of controlling the car and the angle, and being in charge of how much you’re sliding.
Driving on ice – that’s probably the most fun conditions for driving you can have anywhere. I had the opportunity to do some training on a frozen lake. It’s the perfect environment to test the limits of the car. If you push it beyond those limits, you’ll just go into a soft snow bank. It was a few years ago now and an incredible experience. It’s definitely on my bucket list to do a race on snow.
Drifting is definitely as fun as it looks. I remember driving a rally car on gravel for the first time – it wasn’t with the intention to take it up as a sport. My parents were involved, and my dad was running a rally school at the time. I was about 15 or 16. My dad took my sister and I out to the rally school to drive the cars. He purely wanted it as a driver-training exercise. He wanted to make sure we were competent drivers. That was the idea behind it all, but when I experienced the thrill of driving a rally car on gravel… It opened my eyes up to a world of possibilities. I never stopped.
My parents did joke about it. “Couldn’t you have taken up golf? Or tennis? Or something that is a bit financially easier to get involved in, where there are more opportunities?” Motorsport is a really cruel and tough sport. You have to go in with your eyes open to that. Having so many years and so much success in the sport, they were fully aware of all those ups and downs.
The worst bit about motorsport is the financials. You have to be talented, obviously, but it’s not the kind of sport where, say, the fastest runner will win the race, whether they’ve got nice clothes or not. In motorsport, you have to have the talent but, also, you have to have the money.
It’s definitely not fair. There are lots of drivers who may have never got to show what they were capable of, because they couldn’t get the money together. Then there are probably other drivers out there who had more funding and less talent.
I drive a WRX STI on the road, the same model as my rally car. This one is just a stock standard car; it’s owned by Subaru Australia. They are the same, but in such different environments. In the rally car, you’ve got all your gear on. You’re in the mode. On the way to the shops, you’re not in that headspace. Besides, when you’re in competition you can get it all out of your system. There’s not that same desire to do it on the road. Plus, if I lost my licence, I wouldn’t be able to rally, so, if nothing else, that’s a bloody good incentive to not be an idiot on the road.
The adrenaline is the same every time. It never gets boring. Because it is always slightly different, and you’re always trying to push that limit. You’ve got a bunch of other competitors who are all pushing as hard as they can.
When you absolutely nail a corner, and get to the point where it’s almost like the car is dancing on top of the road… That’s my favourite part of a race. Turning in really early, going through the corner sideways, and then the car is absolutely straight coming out of the exit, then you’re early and pinned on the throttle – nailing that experience, feeling that you’re making it do exactly what you want: it couldn’t have gone around that corner faster.
I have dreams about rallying all the time. It’s pretty sad. Normally before a rally, you will have bizarre dreams, about some little thing you need to check or go over.
This week’s highlights…
• Netball: West Coast Fever v Collingwood Magpies
Saturday, 7pm (AWST), Perth Arena
• Soccer: A-League grand final – Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory
Saturday, 7.50pm (AEST), McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
• Cycling: Giro d’Italia stage 2 – Haifa to Tel Aviv
Saturday, 9.10pm (AEST), Israel
• NRL: St George Illawarra Dragons v Melbourne Storm
Sunday, 2pm (AEST), Jubilee Oval, Kogarah, NSW
• Motorsport: Perth SuperSprint – Supercars Championship, Race 12
Sunday, 2.15pm (AWST), Barbagallo Raceway, Perth
• AFL: St Kilda v Melbourne
Sunday, 3.20pm (AEST), Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 5, 2018 as "Molly’s game".
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