Molly Taylor thought the biggest break of her motorsport career was a prank.
An email from Nico Rosberg completely wrong-footed the only woman to win the Australian Rally Championship and she dismissed it as a great gag by one of her mates.
Now, after three days of testing in Europe for the Extreme E off-road series in 2021, she knows it’s real and cannot stop smiling.
Taylor first completed a shakedown in Germany at half-power settings in the electric SUV and then headed to Spain for two full days of driving alongside her Rosberg Xtreme Racing team mate – and rallycross superstar – Johan Kristoffersson.
“First impressions of the car are that it’s a lot of fun to drive and we’re happy with the lessons we’ve learned,” said Taylor.
“To drive it across two very different track layouts has been very useful and a lot of fun. We seem to be learning a thousand things every kilometre we run.”
The concept for Extreme E off-road is a dirt-track version of Formula E single-seaters, but with two drivers – one male, one female – on tracks in some of the world’s most remote locations.
The series begins in Saudi Arabia in March before moving on to Senegal, Greenland, Brazil and Argentina.
Big-name team bosses include Rosberg and his former Mercedes-AMG team mate Lewis Hamilton.
The cars themselves are similar to a Dakar buggy and manufactured by Spark Racing Technology using a battery pack from Williams Advanced Engineering, a spin-off from the grand prix team that also supplies Formula E. The outputs are 400 kiloWatts and 920 Newton-metres, good for a 0-100km/h time of 4.5 seconds on gravel or sand and a top speed of 200km/h.
“It’s pretty fun. It’s more car-like than I expected. it’s big and heavy but more responsive than I expected And that will only get better,” Taylor told Race news.
But how did the Rosberg deal happen?
“It’s taken a couple of months since Nico first emailed, and then called me,” Taylor said.
“I didn’t believe his email at first. I thought someone was winding me up.
“But then he FaceTimed me, so it was pretty obvious it wasn’t’ a prank.”
Taylor got an exemption from coronavirus travel bans to travel to Europe after finishing second in the National Capital Rally in Canberra in a Subaru STI, the only Australian-title level rally to run in 2020, before flying to meet her team in Germany before travelling to Spain for the serious testing.
“Extreme E is a bit of a shift in direction for me, but I think the opportunity for the whole series is really really exciting. It’s one of the best opportunities I’ve had.
“This is going to have so much influence on motorsport in the future, so being involved at the forefront with a new concept is going to be great. It is awesome to be part of something that’s really ground breaking.”
Taylor has rallied in Europe in the past, scoring several significant successes, but never had the budget or connection to break into the top level of the World Rally Championship.
She intends to continue rallying Australia next year but a plan to compete in the American rally championship, with the crack Dirtfish team, never happened for 2020 because of the high cost of the program and the pandemic.
“We were planning to do a couple of events with Dirtfish, but Covid put an end to that,” Taylor said.