|Twenty seven year old Paul Batten has driven a 49 year old car to Handicap honours at Targa Tasmania.
Batten, with father Mike calling the notes, produced outstanding speed in their 1961 Volvo PV544 across the six days of competition to run out an easy winner in the Shannons Classic Handicap Competition. They led the competition from early on the first day.
He finished 10 minutes 50 seconds ahead of Peter and Sari Ullrich, Jensen CV8 with John Ireland and Michael Ribot, Porsche 911 Carrera, third 18 minutes 30 seconds off the pace.
Batten had the second fastest time of any of the 78 Classic cars in the field, only trailing the newer, more sophisticated 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera RS of Rex Broadbent, who took the Classic Outright honours. New rules this year meant that eligible crews would have to nominate in which competition they would take their podium place. Before the changes were made applying the Podium Adjustment Penalty, the Battens were only 4 minutes 20 seconds behind Broadbent and 7 minutes 32 seconds ahead of 3rd placed Barry Faux in a Mazda RX7.
here for Rally Results
Whilst focused on the Handicap event Paul drove to the best of his ability and was always placed strongly in the Outright standings. He finished a very wet Day 1 in equal 3rd. Day 2 down the East Coast was dry and he fell to 7th showing the 2.3 litre engine is not always a Porsche beater. Day 3 finished well with an equal second place on the important 26.4km Mount Roland stage and by the end of the day he was up to 5th. Heavy rain made the morning of Day 4 wet and slippery, then with John Siddins Datsun 240Z crashing on Hellyer Gorge he finished the day in third place. Day 5 stage wins on the wet Strahan, Queenstown and Mount Arrowsmith stages saw the red Volvo only 5 seconds behind the Porsche 911 RS of Peter Eames. Unfortunately Peter crashed badly on Tarraleah and handed second place to the crew of the old red Volvo.
Another outstanding achievement was placing 18th out of the full field of 211 “All Competitors” who started the 5 day event. This includes the Modern, Early Modern and Showroom cars.
Batten, who works for international motorsport outfit, Prodrive, has a fine record in gravel rallying, but is now making a name for himself on tarmac.
Clerk of Course, Stuart Benson, described Batten’s effort as the drive of the rally.
“It is an underpowered car yet Paul has managed to get the maximum out of it,” Benson said. “His driving skill is outstanding. He also brings a lot of expertise to the set-up of the car, with his suspension really aiding his performance.”
The younger Batten was delighted with his victory.
“It’s been a challenging five days and we’ve just kept our nose to the grindstone and just doing the best we can, and it’s turned out quite a good result,” an understated Batten said.
“The car is a lot quicker than people give it credit for and we’ve overtaken some fairly quick cars.” The 19 victims included Porsche GT3 and 911, three Mitsubishi EVO’s, WRX STi, several Mazda RX7s, Mustang, several Commodores, Lotus and 600bhp Mercedes.
“The tyres have been very good in the wet as well, so we’ve just tried to keep the momentum going from one stage to the next. Russell Stuckey recommended the soft compound Dunlops and they transformed the car. We are very grateful to Russell for his excellent advice.”
The Volvo was competing in its twelfth Targa and has been continually improved by Kari Dirickx at Seldom Seen Vehicles and Engineering, Picton, NSW. Gary Comerford of Volpro built the responsive engine that compliments the car so successfully. Gary Comerford and Damien Reeves paired up and were an outstanding service crew.
“We’re surprised with our times in the Classic Outright competition as there’s a lot of fast cars there. I think the wet weather may have suited us a little more and there’s been a few offs as well. Some of the big boys have fallen and we’ve been there to pick up the pieces.”
Batten comes from good rallying stock, his father a three-time New South Wales Rally Champion.
footage of 2010 Targa. The stage is Queenstown and we
were the fastest outright of the 63 Classic cars that
started the stage.
“Sometimes I wish I could turn down the speed control on Paul. However his car control is brilliant and he has not had a moment since he first started driving at Targa in 2008.” Mike Batten said.
“I am amazed that we had the speed to be 2nd out of all vehicles manufactured up to December 2002.
There were 139 cars covering Vintage, Classic and Early Modern Competitions who started the six day event.”