Top New Zealand co-driver Malcolm Read will head across the Tasman, joining Subaru do Motorsport, for the 2018 CAMS Australian Rally Championship with 2016 victor Molly Taylor.

Christchurch-based Read (29) will be the first Kiwi since the late Possum Bourne, who won the Australian Rally Championship seven times consecutively from 1996 to 2002. Five of the titles, were achieved with Bourne’s fellow New Zealander, Craig Vincent, in the co-driver’s seat.

Subaru Australia 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 Kiwi co-driver Read, ahead of the team’s debut on March 3-4 at Eureka Rally, Victoria – round one of the 2018 series.

Read says it was a great opportunity to be presented with: “Molly’s co-driver Bill approached me at Rally Australia last year saying ‘I’ve got an offer for you, let’s talk soon. Three weeks later Molly’s calling me. It was like an early Christmas present!”

Taylor was pleased to be able to find a co-driver of Read’s calibre to take Hayes’ place: “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,” she says.

Read began rallying in 2004 and now has more than 100 events globally to his credit.

Among his highest achievements as a co-driver are:

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

For Read it is an honour to be following in Bourne’s footsteps.

“Having grown up watching Possum in the Australian Rally Championship, it was something I’ve always wanted to do but to be teamed up with Molly and Subaru Australia just makes it extra special,” he says.

Subaru of New Zealand Managing Director Wallis Dumper says Read’s co-driving call-up is a great example of how the Kiwi car brand has always collaborated with its Australian equivalent.

“Although our Subaru markets are completely separate, we have obvious synergies with Subaru being such a popular brand Down Under, meaning that we are both strong sellers for Subaru globally. In terms of rallying, we have a wealth of heritage going back to the Possum Bourne days, where he started out in a Subaru RX and then drove a Legacy RS, Impreza WRX, Impreza WRC and Impreza WRX STi during his stellar career.”

A big focus for Taylor and Read’s 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,” says Taylor.

Managing Director of Subaru Australia Colin Christie,says: “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, on March 3 to 4, covers 16 stages over 212.52 competitive kilometres.