Rallying legend Coral Taylor has become the first woman inducted into the Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame, presented by Speedcafe.com in Melbourne tonight.
Taylor accepted the award in front of friends and family, including daughter Molly who became the first female to win the Australian Rally Championship last year, and husband Mark who has had a successful career as a driver and instructor.
Taylor began her motorsport career as a teenager and was co-driver for her father, the late Norm Fitter, in the renowned Repco Reliability Trial in 1979.
There was some hint of Taylor’s ability when she won her first rally as a co-driver to Peter Glennie in 1986.
In 1993, Taylor teamed with Neal Bates to lead the Toyota factory team to the Australian Rally Championship crown, the first of three straight national titles.
The pair had such an impact in rallying that Bates was also inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame this evening.
For the next six years, Taylor and Bates had numerous victories but could not overcome the dominance of Possum Bourne, who took seven national titles from 1996 to 2002 in his Subaru.
Taylor and Bates finished runner-up five times and third once in the championship during the likable Kiwi’s reign.
Bourne, who was tragically killed in an accident in 2003 on a stretch of road being prepared for the Race to the Sky Hill Climb, was also inducted into the Hall of Fame tonight.
His widow Peggy and children Taylor, Jazlin and Spencer travelled from New Zealand to receive his award.
Bates, Bourne and Taylor join Ross Dunkerton and ‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray as the rallying representatives in the Hall of Fame after the first two induction ceremonies.
As well as the third title in 1995, Bates and Taylor also finished first outright in Targa Tasmania. They also won their class from 1999 to 2001 in a Lexus IS200.
Bates and Taylor sat out the 2002 season with new rules forcing the construction of a new Toyota Corolla, which they drove to sixth place in 2004 and 2005 and second in 2006.
In 2007, they debuted a new Corolla Super 2000 and they become the first pair to win stages and finish on the podium in ARC in an S2000-spec car. They finished second in the championship for the seventh time.
The following year they would go one better and clinch their fourth national championship.
Overall, Bates and Taylor have won 47 events and been on the podium 87 times. They are still competing in the ARC Classic Rally Challenge, which they have also won four times.
“I’ve had the pleasure of sitting beside one of the best drivers in the country for the past 24 years and being a part of the Neal Bates Motorsport team and the Toyota family,” said Taylor.
“To turn your hobby into a career is what everyone dreams of.
“Rallying is such a unique form of motorsport because there are two people in the car. It’s the teamwork that I love.
“The relationship between a driver and a co-driver is based upon total trust and total commitment, and there’s no better feeling in the world than when you drive the perfect stage and every note is given at exactly the right moment and the driver has committed to every corner as fast as possible; it’s exhilarating.
“Being inducted into the (Australian) Motorsport Hall of Fame is a complete surprise for me and I feel very honoured.”
Still heavily involved from an administration side, Taylor is one of the series organisers as part of Neal Bates Motorsport for the Toyota 86 Racing Series, which is about to start its second season.