IT'S UP there with the marriage Steve Williams had with Tiger Woods in golfdom but, of course, minus any acrimony.

Oh, what the hell - the rapport motor rally driver Stewart Taylor, of Hastings, has with co-driver Warwick Searle, of Auckland, is even more imperative.

Strip off any perceived sense of glitz and glamour and it can simply be a matter of life and death.

"If he makes a mistake, I'll crash. If I do then we'll crash," says Taylor before he and Searle today defend their Tomoana Warehousing Transport Ltd-sponsored Rally of Hawke's Bay.


Their motoring collaboration goes back to 2006 national championship when Gisborne-born Searle became Taylor's No1 co-driver.

"We have a great working relationship in the car so I rely on his pace notes religiously."

The 43-year-old managing director of Tomoana Warehousing reveals the last time Searle slipped up was during the rally of New Zealand in the winter of 2010.

"I've made a few since but not many dramatic ones, with just a few dented panels."

The combination's rapport should be the envy of many marriage counsellors, devoid of finger-pointing scenarios amid bloopers.

It's a symphony of mental gymnastics honed over almost a decade where Searle has the capacity to grant him the licence to rev up on the grid or take a more conservative approach to impending danger on blind situations.

"I don't believe I can do it without him because it's not something I have done before."

For argument's sake, Taylor says Searle's consistently in his ear well before he's over a crest where there's a slight kink so the driver has to visualise the picture the co-driver is depicting in a split second.


His 2008 Mitsubishi Evo 10 isn't a state-of-the-art machine when juxtaposed with Hayden Padden's metal beast or those on the production line in Europe.

However, his car is the benchmark for others to aspire to today.

He appreciates former V8 Supercar driver and king of tarmac Greg Murphy, of Havelock North, boosting the profile of the rally and Hawke's Bay Car Club on his debut drive here in his 40-year-old Ford Escort today.

Nevertheless, Taylor's preoccupation is with the top-six elite drivers, including home boy Grant Blackberry, Lance Williams, Dylan Turner, Graham Featherstone, Brian Green and Bay co-driver Fleur Pederson, Clinton Cunningham and Dave Strong.

Other Bay entries among the 38 entries include Ron Davey, Gareth McLachlan, Jason Timmins, Erick Kyle and Keith Frankum.

"A lot of them race all year round in the national competition and I haven't done much," he says, revealing the demands of work and commitments to a young family have taken precedence.


Pivotal to securing their fourth consecutive crown today will be knowledge of the terrain in the Hastings and Wairoa stages with the rally culminating at the doorstep of the club at Bridge around its 800m dirt track.

Here's a taste of Taylor's take on one of several things to factor in today.

With rain for the past two days, Taylor and Searle's pole position will immensely benefit them.

Every vehicle that follows them will be chewing up mud.

"By the time car No10 comes around the surface will be slushy mud so they'll have less grip so it'll be better to be the first car."

Conversely, aridity on the gravel road will play into the hands of the cars behind.


"When it's dry it's like concrete so the stones roll around like ball bearings," he explains, revealing they as No1 car will be sweeping away gravel to create smooth ruts that'll offer cars No5 and 6 more traction.

As the premier sponsors, Taylor doesn't have the luxury of sentimentalism because "naturally" the desire to win takes over.

"I'm also enjoying supporting the car club and a local event because I developed my racing around this area."

The pit crew of up to four, including Bay mechanic Stuart Moore since 2006, receive kudos for the champions' prowess.

Taylor first slipped behind the wheel of a "proper racing car" in 2003, a Mitsubishi Gallant VR4.

The loyalty to the Japanese car manufacturers stems from endorsement from acquaintances.


"A friend told us it was affordable and I've admired how reliable it is and it's always easier to maintain."

Taylor's father, Trevor, always had enthusiasm for rally driving so the son convinced him to race in 2003 with him.

"We did a lot of Hawke's Bay rally sprints and hill climbs,"

Taylor's younger brother, Logan, caught the competitive bug in 2005 but hasn't gone down that road since "but he might make a comeback soon".

The organisers of the rally, which is the final leg of of the Geartech Central Region Series, are expecting close to 1000 spectators at the Bridge Pa finish.

The club has 140 members but not all of them are active.