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Twenty-six year old automotive test engineer, Paul Batten, is usually seen behind the wheel of a high-tech Subaru Impreza WRX STI in the Australian Rally Championship. But for a second time, the NSW driver will step back in time and drive his father’s 1965 Volvo PV544 in this year's Targa Tasmania.

A former Australian Rally Championship Privateers’ Cup winner, Batten has a strong pedigree in motorsport. His dad, Mike, is a three-time NSW Rally Champion and is a veteran of 12 Targa Tasmanias.

In the 2008 Targa Tasmania they shared the driving in the Volvo, and looked set for victory in the Early Classic category until a panhard rod broke two stages from home and they had to settle for second place.

The Volvo has been prone to failures over the years and requires plenty of tender loving care, but when it’s on song, it’s well worth watching.

Modifications include twin Weber carburettors, a close ration four-speed gearbox, Proflex suspension, Dunlop tyres and a Volpro engine. And according to Paul, it’s great fun to drive.

“Driving flat out over the wonderful variety of roads is a real privilege,” he says of the attraction of Targa Tasmania.

“We take the competition seriously and tackle each stage as fast as we can. However, we need to be careful to preserve the car. We will have a good battle in the Early Classic competition and hopefully we can improve on our second place from last year.

“We have an old car without a huge amount of power so if bad conditions prevail we can close the gap to our competition. But that said, dry weather makes the experience more enjoyable and comfortable. However, if some days have poor visibility, some are very wet and some have snow, we will be more competitive.”

Father and son first teamed together in the 2007 Alpine Rally (a two-day gravel event) where they were leading the rally in a Datsun 1600 before gearbox failure. They paired up again in Targa last year, with the 2009 event being their third together.

They will be supported by a dedicated team who will try to keep the Volvo ticking over for the entire rally.

“We usually have two experienced mechanics who also prepare the car - Kari Dirickx from Seldom Seen Vehicles and Engineering, and Gary Comerford from Volpro,” Paul said.

“If the car is reliable the event is heaps of fun. We look forward to getting into it every day, and can’t wait for the end of April to come around.”
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