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Young guns Paul Batten and Glen Raymond teamed up in a classic Datsun 1600 to take on the Yokohama Alpine Rally last weekend. Seeded car 2 in a huge field of 113, the pair were one of the favourites to take home the prestigious Alpine trophy - the biggest 2WD and classic rally in Australia, which runs every two years.

Run out of Lakes Entrance in beautiful spring weather, the event would see the pairing, with Batten driving and Raymond navigating, build a lead of close to one minute before a gearbox failure halted their progress. 

Batten and Raymond met while competing in the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) and got to know each other when they were selected to attend the CAMS AIS Driver Development program. Good friends, they have since collaborated on several "The Bat/Raymo" motorsport endeavours, winning a round of Victorian 2WD Championship in an Excel, and durability testing paddock bashers at the Raymond Proving Grounds.

Batten has had a good year, winning the Shannons Early Classic Competition in Targa Tasmania and finishing fifth Outright Classic in a 1961 Volvo in what some have described as one of the best drives in the history of Targa. He also won 2WD in the Akademos VRC round in a warm up to the Alpine.

Raymond had a stellar year driving a Grp N(P) Toyota Corolla, becoming the youngest driver to win a round of the Australian Rally Championship - eventually finishing second in the championship to Simon Evans, and narrowly missing selection for the WRC Pirelli Star Driver program in his first drive of a Mitsubishi Lancer.

The team's Datsun 1600 belongs to Paul’s father Mike who has successfully campaigned it in recent years with podium finishes in the Alpine Rally and Red Centre to Gold Coast Trial.

"Raymo had a great year in the ARC this year, we are good mates and always have a laugh and a lot of fun in the car together but you would expect no less from the motorsport personality of the year!" said Batten before the event start.

The event kicked off with two short prologue stages on Friday to determine the start order. A conservative approach saw the team start from ninth car on the road, finding the balance between sweeping the roads and having a dust free run at car 1 for the night stages.

After the ceremonial start the crew took to the stages proper coming to grips with the car which had a few handling issues. Batten commented, "I didn't have confidence in the car initially but we keep trying with every corner. We made some changes with brake bias, and improved the wheel alignment after bumping the steering and it really improved the car."

The team really set themselves apart from the field in the afternoon, winning eight of the nine stages and setting a lead of 53 seconds to Brad Goldsbrough and Aaron Topliff, with Geoff Portman and Ross Runnalls in third.

At the meal break the service crew fitted the driving lights and tarmac tyres in preparation for the 35km tarmac stage. Batten commented, "We have been taking it corner by corner and focusing on our own game. To be honest I wasn't looking at stage times and didn't even know we were in the lead, but that won't change my driving and we will keep working at it. We have changed the setup on the dampers and we are looking forward to the tarmac stage."

But the tarmac stage saw a change in fortune for the team. "The car was amazing on tarmac and we were really motoring, but from the halfway point in the stage it was stuck in fourth gear. It was disappointing, but that is motorsport and we are happy with how things went over the day. We are grateful to be able to compete in this amazing event, and we are grateful for the chance to compete in Dad’s car," said Batten. 

"I have never navigated in a high horsepower rear wheel drive car before, so it was great to get back to what the heroes of yester-year used to drive," said navigator Glen Raymond. "I was happy to help Batto (Paul) prove this weekend that he is one of Australia's top classic drivers, but I was also just as happy to be along for the ride doing some sick skids!"

The event saw legendary rally names Geoff Portman and Ross Runnalls take eventual victory with Brad Goldsbrough repeating his second place in the Otago Classic Rally with second in his first Alpine. Third place went to Jeff David and Grant Geelan in their Porsche 911 after a strong recovery.

The crew would like to thank - the Batten family, the Raymond family, Stuckey Tyre Service, and Seldom Seen Vehicles and Engineering.

Photo: Peter Whitten

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