Subaru do Motorsport has confirmed its return to the CAMS Australian Rally Championship with 2016 victor Molly Taylor set to campaign with a new co-driver.
Subaru will again compete with an All-Wheel Drive Production Rally Car (PRC) class WRX STI, prepared by Les Walkden Rallying (LWR) over the expanded six-round series.
Following the decision of 2016 and 2017 Australian Rally Co-driver Champion Bill Hayes to step back from the factory team, Taylor has completed testing with respected New Zealand co-driver Malcolm Read, ahead of the team’s debut on March 3-4 at Eureka Rally, Victoria – Round One of the 2018 series.
Molly said: “Bill has set the bar very high and we had to think long and hard about who could aspire to his level of ability and professionalism, but we’re confident we’ve found a great fit with Malcolm.
“Just like Bill, he’s highly motivated and experienced and after testing this week in Tasmania, we’re quietly confident that we can produce the goods.”
Molly added: “I am incredibly grateful for everything Bill has put into the team and personally how much he has helped me to develop my career. We’re sorry to lose Bill’s expertise and experience, but also respect his desire to take on his own next chapter.
“The only compensation is that Bill stepped out of the car as a dual co-drivers champion and that’s a mark of his incredible ability and contribution over the last couple of seasons.”
A big focus for the team in 2018 is finding efficiencies in the turbocharged WRX STI, to remain competitive against the increasing prevalence of lightweight AP4 cars in the Championship.
With prime challengers Harry Bates (Toyota) and Eli Evans (Mini Cooper) both opting for AP4, Taylor says every bit of weight saving and efficiency that can be gained from the WRX STI is being considered by the brains trust at LWR.
“It’s a shame 2017 champion Nathan Quinn won’t be competing this year, however the field is shaping up to be bigger and more competitive yet again,” said Taylor.
“The extra round in Tasmania this year is a huge opportunity, as it reduces the mid-season break and, being a new event based out of Launceston, makes a big learning curve for all competitors, though I’m sure Les
Walkden’s local knowledge will be a big help when we get down there in July!”
Based in Christchurch, New Zealand, new co-driver Malcolm Read began rallying in 2004 and now has more than 100 events globally to his credit.
Among his highest achievements as a co-driver:
•1st 2016,2015, 2014 FIA Asia Pacific Production Cup Championship
•1st 2014 and 2013 FIA Asia Pacific 2WD Championship
•1st 2013 FIA Asia Cup Championship
Colin Christie, Managing Director, Subaru Australia, said: “After just missing out on the Championship in 2017, Molly and Malcolm are on a mission to restore Subaru honours this year.
“Les Walkden and the LWR crew are focused on ensuring the WRX STI is as lean and mean as can be.
“With many new variations both within our own team and the series, it’s going to make it an intriguing season all round.”
Round 1 of the Championship, The Courier Eureka Rally, Ballarat, 3-4 March, covers 16 stages over 212.52 competitive kilometres.
Six forest and two shire road stages are due to be run twice. Four stages are the same as 2017, while three retain elements of 2017, with one all-new, featuring a bitumen road through an area known locally as Devil’s
Kitchen. It traverses some shire lanes and even private property.
AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR 2018
Round 1 – The Courier Eureka Rally, Ballarat, 3-4 March
Round 2 – Make Smoking History Forest Rally, WA, 27-29 April
Round 3 – Netier National Capital Rally, Canberra, 1-3 June
Round 4 – Rally Tasmania 27-24 July *Provisional – subject to finalisation of promoter agreement.
Round 5 – Adelaide Hills Rally SA, 21-23 September
Round 6 – Kennards Hire Rally Australia, Coffs Harbour, 15-18 November