TAFE students keep ARC team on track
Many of the teams competing in the NEC Australian Rally Championship are family based or professionally supported, however the up and coming duo of Paul Batten and Craig Jones are doing things a little differently. The Paul Batten Racing team has been joined by students and teachers from the Kangan Batman Institute of TAFE Motorsport Training course, based in Melbourne Suburb of Coburg.
The dedicated students and teachers have been heavily involved in every rally the team has competed in this year, both with the Subaru STi they run in the NEC ARC, and the Hyundai Excel in the Excel Rally Series. With the job of preparing the cars and providing a service crew for each event, the Kangan Batman Institute of TAFE team is getting practical experience alongside the theory they learn in class.
"Teaming up with Paul and Craig has been fantastic. It is great experience for the students to build and prepare the cars, but being a part of the team and feeling the ups and downs of motor sport is really what it is all about," Greg Moulden, co-ordinator of the Motorsport Course, said.
As well as being good experience for the TAFE students, the partnership has been a godsend for Paul and Craig, who run a self-funded team.
"When it comes down to it we wouldn’t be able to compete in the NEC ARC or other events if we didn’t have the TAFE behind us," co-driver Jones said. "Our families haven’t been in the position to be able to provide financial support so Paul and I pay our own way in the Subaru.
"It’s hard work running a privately funded team, but I’m definitely not complaining because we get to have a lot of fun, and we have some really generous help from our sponsors. Being able to share the ride with everyone from Kangan Batman TAFE has been a great experience," Jones added.
Batten and Jones debuted their new Subaru STi at last month’s Rally of Canberra, and were joined for the event by Moulden, course teacher Mike Carey and students Dave Perri, Travis Shanaughan, Sarah Panayi and Ryu Woo Chon. It was a successful event for the team who took out maximum points in the Rally Challenge Class.
Away from the NEC ARC Batten and Jones are also competing in the Excel Rally Series in a Hyundai owned and previously competed in by Greg Moulden.
"It got to the stage late last year that I was too busy to manage the students on event as well as drive the Hyundai, so I asked Paul to step in for an event, and after a good run we decided to put Paul and Craig in the Excel this year. So far it is working well," Moulden says.
Driving a car that he doesn’t own has been a learning experience for Batten, and has already proven to be a great formula for the team with an unbeaten run in the Excel Series and a strong lead in the Victorian 2WD Championship.
"The biggest difference with the Hyundai drive has been the fact it isn’t my car," Batten said. "At the start of each event Greg tells me what he wants to achieve and all I have to do is go out and concentrate on doing a good job.
"It’s weird but I actually put less pressure on myself when I am driving someone else’s car – I just follow orders!"
The opportunity being provided to the students involved is already producing great results, shown through the increasing experience levels of the students who are already being noticed by the other teams across the motor sport community.
On Sunday evening after Rally of Canberra, Dave Perri and Travis Shanaughan left the team and travelled back to Melbourne to join the ranks of a V8 Supercar team, working as part of their pit crew.
"You can really see the quality of the students by the results the team is achieving, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed in the motor sport community," Mike Carey said.
"The experience the students are gaining by being actively involved in a team environment and working on cars that are competing in national and state events will be invaluable as they move into their professional careers," he added.
With Hyundai backing in the Victorian Rally Championship, and a strong presence in circuit racing where the TAFE team is leading the Victorian Formula Ford championship against fancied opposition, the future is looking bright for the students and teams involved.