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Having dominated much of the Australian 4WD Series this year, it’s understandable that Mick Patton was feeling a bit down beat at the end of Scouts Rally SA as he was pipped to the post by Tasmanian Marcus Walkem.
 

But the Canberra driver is looking at the positives after a year that saw him get back to enjoying his rallying after two torturous years in a front-wheel drive.
 
“It’s fairly disappointing not to claim the 4WD title,” admitted Patton who started the year with victory in Canberra and Western Australia.
 
“The downside for us with the 4WD series was that it’s a best of three structure. We chose to do all five (rounds), Marcus (Walkem) chose to do just the three. That in itself is a bit frustrating because if all five rounds counted we would have won by over 200 points.”
 
“But we knew that when we started, and we have to take our hats off to Marcus and Scott. They picked their rounds wisely and they drove incredibly well,” Patton added.
 
Having begun rallying in a Group N Subaru Impreza WRX, and showcasing his pace over the first couple of years, Patton and co-driver Bernie Webb chose to switch to a front-wheel drive Volkswagen Polo. Despite their best efforts they continuously hit mechanical problems including a number of blown engines.
 
“We sat down at the start of this year, after a very frustrating year last year, and our goal was just to finish stages again. When I first started rallying with Bernie, we would always finish stages and get faster and faster over a rally,” Patton explained.
 
“We then made the shift from the Subaru into the VW and to be honest we had a really tough couple of years, lots of problems and lots of disappointment. We really just wanted to get back to enjoying rallying, otherwise what was the point.”
 
“So this year we switched to the Mitsubishi (Lancer Evo X) and we finished eighty-eight stages out of the five rounds that we’ve gone to.”
 
While Patton maintained a brave face during the Volkswagen years, he now openly admits to the hardships he and Webb went through.
 
“At the end of last year we were packing up our tools and leaving the sport, we were done, we literally couldn’t take anymore heartache and mental fatigue. We were miserable.”
 
“I had a really long chat with Neal Bates and Dave McShane from Race Torque, and they were both able to really pick me up and show me I had to get back to the type of rallying I enjoy and that’s when we decided to move back into a 4WD,” said Patton.
 
“I’ve got the smile back on my face. At the end of last year I didn’t think that was even possible. We’ve achieved so much more this year than I could have hoped for. We were seeded car 25 or 30 last year, and in South Australia we were car 3.”
 
With the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship opening up the outright category to both two and four-wheel drives next season, Patton is confident that he is both on the right path for his enjoyment of rallying but also his potential to vie for the title.
 
“There’s been some huge pluses I take away from 2015 – we’ve won stages, we’ve won Heats and we’ve won rallies. But the most pleasing thing to us is the speed in the car. We’re physically pushing and beating people and up until this year we haven’t been in that position before.”
 
“We’ve had a brief chat about what we’d like to do next year,” Patton added. “There are some options there for sure, and one of those is stepping back into the Evo X again. We’ve got great support from Penrite and Repco regardless of the 4WD result, and we’ll sit down with them to work out what we do next year too.”

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