Batten leads Alpine Rally before DNF
- 28th November 2007, 12:22pm
Paul Batten continued to surprise with a great performance at the Alpine Rally, taking the lead of the event shortly before a gearbox failure put the team out of the event in their Fullerton Financial Services/Pitman Trucks backed Datsun 1600.
After driving his self-funded Subaru STi to a hard fought win in the ARC Rally Challenge, and the Hyundai-supported Excel to a win in the Victorian Rallydrive Excel Series, the Alpine Rally saw a big change of pace with Paul stepping into his father Mike’s Datsun 1600 in the enormously popular Alpine Rally for classic cars.
The event attracted a massive 113 crews to Lakes Entrance and was an event Paul Batten had always wanted to compete in.
“Kari and the guys from Seldom Seen Vehicles and Engineering were flat out in the lead up to event preparing the car, and the first time I stepped into it was on Friday’s media day. I had never driven the car in anger before so I had a lot of catching up to do to get familiar with it!” Batten said.
The team orders required a steady approach to the event as Batten had not competed in a rear-wheel drive car for over two years.
“There was definitely a transitional period getting my head around the major handling differences to what I have been used to. We had a spin in stage 3 which I put down to Dad distracting me with driving advice! But I really did struggle early on with the slower corners.”
Despite this, the team had set some consistent stage times and were placed second to Claude Murray at the end of the first division. Mike had finished third driving in the last Alpine as a driver and was taking some time getting used to the navigator’s seat with his son at the wheel.
“I was building up trust on a stage by stage basis!” said Mike. “Paul was driving really well but it took some getting used to. He wasn’t having any moments and seemed to have things well under control, but occasionally I would pop my head up and wonder what I was doing there!”
Batten took the lead with a win on stage 5 as Murray had an off road excursion. “The plan was to drive our own event, so Dad and I hadn’t been taking stage times and were totally unaware of our position. I was really getting used to the car though and it really was a joy to drive. After finding it really difficult to drive the Subaru at the Rally of Melbourne, it was really nice to be able to do my thing and have the car do exactly what I wanted.”
This promising result was followed by a disappointing gearbox failure with the normally reliable Datsun grinding to a halt on the sixth stage. “The gearbox has been in the car for six years without a hiccup, and we just assumed in the lead-up that it wasn’t an item to worry about,” said Mike.
“I was really disappointed because I was enjoying the drive so much. The car was great to drive and I was really getting my eye in, and looking forward to the longer stages,” Paul added. “I had no idea how competitive we had been and was amazed we were in the top five, let alone to be leading the event.”
The team were generously supported by ARC rival Bruce Fullerton’s company, Fullerton Financial Services, on the event. “It was great having Bruce on board for the Alpine. As a driver he would have liked to be out there, but he was definitely there in spirit. A few people thought he was driving with the familiar Fullerton Financial Services sticker on the windscreen!” Paul said.
Dave Pitman from Pitman Truck Sales also got behind the Datsun onslaught. “It was great to have the help from Pitman Trucks. Dave was fresh from a third in class at the Mt Buller Sprint and was keen to be involved in the Alpine. He definitely loves his motorsport.”
The team would also like to thank Russell from Stuckeys Tyres for the Dunlop tyres which gave plenty of grip.
The event was won with an excellent drive from Darryn Snooks and Matt De Vaus in their Datsun Stanza, with Jesse Robison second and Kari Dirickx rounding out the top three.
After the final round in the Hyundai Excel series, attention now turns back to Paul’s ARC team, PBR, and their plans for the 2008 ARC.
“We are still really feeling the financial effects of our ARC campaign. I would love to compete next year, but at the moment I just can’t afford it,” he said. “We have really done this year by the seat of our pants, but have still gone over budget by a big margin. We could cobble something together again for a few rounds, but at the end of the day it’s really hard to show what you are capable of when you are trying to drive under this pressure.
“All the same, I have really enjoyed this year, and I am proud of what we have achieved together with the resources at our disposal. We would love to get back out there next year, but we really need a viable option,” he said.
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