“Slowly but surely, it’s sinking in.”
Those were the words of an 18-year-old who’s just won the opportunity of a lifetime.
What were you doing at that age? Still in school? Working a part-time job saving money for university?
In Taylor Gill’s case, his future has just taken what is an unimaginable step for most. The chance to impress a World Rally Championship team and forge a path into the top tier of rallying is within the teenager’s grasp.
But how did he achieve this? Well, it all came down to a decisive three days at the Madras International Circuit in India, where the FIA Rally Star Asia-Pacific stage reached its conclusion.
“But I think, after day one, I probably wasn’t super happy. I made a couple of small little driving errors and I felt like I didn’t compete to my highest standard,” he recalled.
“Day two was a little bit better but the conditions were really tricky and it was almost demoralizing. The way they set it up is really good; we go out in groups because in India, it rains every night but then it’s dry during the day, so the track would get like 20 seconds faster over the course of the day.
“So there were a couple of times there where I’d go out early in the morning, set a really fast time on this track, maybe even the fastest time, and that would stand until midday.
“Then people would just start taking massive chunks of time because the track would get quicker and quicker by the lap. So you had to put what you’re reading on the scoreboard behind you because you know that I did the best I could with the conditions that I had.”
Despite what Gill put down as a tough start to the Rally Star event, it all came together for him on the third and final day. Which was crucial if he was to stand a chance of winning the support of the judges.
“But coming into day three, I think that’s where I made everything stick when it really mattered. I won the beep test, the fitness test that they do, which honestly I surprised myself a bit with that,” he explained.
“I went out as first car and it was really wet and slippery, it was really tricky. But I just tried to go out, make no mistakes, which I did.
“Then they reversed the order for the repeat run. So then I was last to go out and the track had changed so much. It got fairly quicker and then they sent a few of us out for an extra run, so then all of a sudden you’ve got so much pressure on you.”
Yet despite the pressure, Gill came through the other end victorious after putting in a performance that sealed his chance to become the next superstar of rallying.
Although he wasn’t expecting the news to come, as he himself thought he’d not done enough to win the event.
“Everyone leaves the interview not really confident because the way they do it is really good. They word it like they give you advice and wish you well for the future,” he said. “So I walked out of the interview not really confident. And then they called my name. So it was just a massive shock. It was really cool.”
Gill’s journey up until this point hasn’t been a straightforward one. It’s taken years of hard work and commitment that few would be able to keep up for so long.
The journey up the motorsport ladder is never easy. There are setbacks and all kinds of issues that crop up, but the newest winner of Rally Star can still recall where his adventure began.
“I remember being told that I used to drift little dinky cars around the house when I was three or four years old,” he said.
“I started racing go-karts when I turned seven. I got my license the day I turned seven, which is the minimum age in Australia.
“So raced go-karts for six years up until I was 13, I think.
“Then we started doing motorkhanas, khanacrosses, autocrosses, rally sprints, all those sprint events that you do when you’re a youngster trying to gain experience.”
And quickly his path turned to rallying at a young age, which was suddenly halted when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. But Gill didn’t let that get in the way of his aim.
“Unfortunately because of Covid, I’ve probably done half the rallies that I should have done in this amount of time. But yeah, that’s just the way it is,” he said. “As I say, a long time we’ve been working towards an opportunity like this.”
Covid wasn’t the only barrier which stopped him progressing in his career perhaps even earlier than he has.
Like so many trying to break through in motorsport, especially in Gill’s part of the world in Australia, funding made things a little trickier at times.
“The biggest one everyone talks about is the money,” he said.
“If anyone wants to go and compete at a high level from our side of the world, it just costs so much extra to get over there.
“Plus you’ve got to buy the car, plus the Aussie dollar compared to pounds and euros doesn’t exchange well; there’s so many factors like that.
“We’re so far away from everything.”
So, with the Rally Star Final out of the way and the opportunity to compete with an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally3 car, what’s next in line for Gill? There’s one thing on his mind: moving to Europe.
“It’s on the radar, that’s for sure. But it’s still very early days, so got a lot of planning to do,” he explained.
“I need to sit down and write down all the options.
“But if I was to move over it’d be a year, on that regard.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I know I’ll never get a chance like this again, so I’ve really got to work hard to make it stick.”
And Gill’s previous experience might come in handy when it’s time to compete in a Rally3 car, as he has already ran in a car which he believes performs similar to that specification in particular.
“Lots of people run Subarus, Mitsubishi Evos, that sort of thing,” he said.
“So that’s what we’ve been running and yeah, as it turns out, a production-based Subaru crosses over really well to a Rally3 car.
“It’s similar speeds; a production Subaru is probably faster in a straight line but they’re a heavier car, so the Rally3 will handle better.
“I haven’t driven a Rally3 yet, but I’ve been talking to some people that have and that’s the general consensus I’m getting.”
So next time you’re wondering who the next star of the WRC might be, keep the name Taylor Gill in mind.
He is certainly one to watch.
Words by DirtFish's Adam Proud