Can world's fastest female rally driver win in Queensland?
THE International Rally of Queensland (IROQ) roars off this weekend through Imbil State Forest, and beyond the international talent on show one Aussie driver won't be short of attention.
Sydney's Molly Taylor is leading the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) after three rounds of competition, her public profile bolstered by becoming the first woman to win a round of the series.
The 27 year-old piloted her Renault Clio R3 to an historical overall victory in last month's National Capital Rally in Canberra, strengthening the belief held by many that she's the world's fastest female rally driver.
Molly has spent the past six seasons competing internationally, twice winning the British Ladies Championship, once the European Ladies Championship and scoring a podium place in the FIA's Junior WRC Class at the 2012 Rally GB.
Now back in Australia, she is confident heading into the IROQ round over 227km of competitive gravel road stages in Imbil State Forest that she can maintain her current strong form.
"It will be tough as I've not competed here since 2007, but it's a fantastic event that's a real mixture of fast sections where you have to be super brave and very technical ones; plus the weather looks like it'll be changeable," she said.
"Simon and Eli Evans (both multiple ARC Champions) will be my biggest threat as they both like the Queensland event, so I'll have to work hard to be as quick as them on roads new to me."
Daughter and grandaughter of successful rally drivers, Molly said she expected the ARC drivers to be just as quick as those competing in similar cars in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (running alongside the ARC round this weekend), but said the pre-race favourite four-wheel-drive Skodas will be impossible to fight against.
Molly's racer is a French-built Renault Sport Clio R3 similar to the Clio R.S. Cup road cars we get in Australia, albeit with its naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre fettled slightly, its rev limit lifted to 8400rpm and fitted with a six-speed sequential gearbox.
After a ceremonial start and autograph session in Caloundra on Friday June 19, competitive action starts at 7.30am on Saturday June 20 from the hinterland town of Kenilworth, with 18 stages of gravel roads through Imbil State Forest in the Mary Valley to follow over two days.
Tickets priced from $30 for an adult day pass (U14 free) to multiple spectator points are available from www.rallyqueensland.com.au, at spectator point entry gates and at the Imbil Showground competitor service park.
What? International Rally of Queensland 2015.
When? June 20 and 21 from 7.30am.
Where? Imbil State Forest (Parc Ferme at Imbil Showgrounds).
Details? 227km over 18 competitive gravel road stages.
How much? Tickets from $30 for an adult day pass (children under 14 are free) to multiple spectator points.
Tickets? Available from www.rallyqueensland.com.au, at spectator point entry gates and at the Imbil Showground competitor service park.
More info? www.rallyqueensland.com.au