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PBR’s Paul Batten and Craig Jones have taken out the rally.com.au Rally Challenge in the closest title battle of the 2007 NEC Australian Rally Championship.  Heading into the final round, the NGK Rally of Melbourne, held in Victoria’s Yarra Valley last weekend, PBR were tied on 200 points with Fullerton Financial Services Bruce Fullerton and Hugh Reardon-Smith.
 
“It definitely added an extra element to the weekend,” said PBR driver Batten.  “We weren’t too focused on taking out the event win; we just wanted to keep our noses in front of Fullerton.”
 
While the battle was tipped to be fought out between Batten and Fullerton, five of the eight crews competing in the Rally Challenge at the NGK Rally of Melbourne had a mathematical chance of taking the 2007 title.
 
Throughout the morning stages of Heat One, Batten and Fullerton traded stage times at one point being separated by only 1.3 seconds, however all of Fullerton’s hard work was undone on SS8 when he suffered an engine failure, resulting in his retirement from the event. 
 
The retirement of Fullerton provided PBR with some breathing space however they still needed a strong finish in Heat Two to secure the title and the Truckmate Racing Team of John Berne and Scott Beckwith were breathing down their neck.
 
“It was disappointing that we couldn’t continue our battle with Bruce (Fullerton) because I was really enjoying it, but it definitely made things a little easier going into Heat Two,” commented Batten at the finish.
 
Although the Championship came down to the line, PBR were definitely deserving winners of the title, taking out seven of the eight heats they contested in this year’s Rally Challenge, a commendable achievement in their first year competing in a Turbo charged car. 
 
It has not been an easy run to the title however, with the team suffering a heavy crash in Heat Two of the fifth round of the Championship, the Great Lakes Rally.  The resulting damage meant PBR had to complete a full car rebuild requiring parts from across Australia, to be flown to co-driver Craig Jones’ workshop in Gosford, NSW.
 
Re-building the car in just three weeks, the team and their service crew were still working on the car on Friday night to get it ready for the start of Heat One on Saturday morning.
 
“After the incident in NSW I thought it was all over, it really is because of Craig’s determination for us to make it to Melbourne that we are here,” said Batten.
 
“Hopefully this (the Rally Challenge) win will open some doors for us in relation to gaining some major corporate support. It’s definitely been a tough year doing it on our own,” he continued. 
 
The team is currently looking at their options for the 2008 season, however any chance of major upgrades to the car, which had been planned for the off season, are on hold due to the severe costs of the rebuild completed before Melbourne.

 
 

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