Batten loves historic Volvo challenge Paul Batten's pedigree might come from gravel rallying, but the twenty-seven year is out to build a reputation on tarmac at this year's Targa Tasmania, albeit in an unlikely 1961 Volvo. Batten took top ...
Batten loves historic Volvo challenge
Paul Batten's pedigree might come from gravel rallying, but the twenty-seven year is out to build a reputation on tarmac at this year's Targa Tasmania, albeit in an unlikely 1961 Volvo.
Batten took top honours in the Shannons Early Classic competition of the 2009 Targa Tasmania, with a performance that was rated as one of the best ever in the 18 years of the event.
Driving a 1961 Volvo PV544, Batten finished as the fifth fastest classic car in the field, beating home far newer, more expensive and powerful machines.
The chassis and test engineer cut his teeth in gravel rallying, driving cars such as the Subaru Impreza WRX STI, a Datsun 1600 and a Hyundai Excel.
His successes came quickly, with victory in the NSW Gemini Championship, the Victorian Hyundai Excel Series, and the Australian Rally Championship Privateers' Cup.
But now he is behind the wheel of the Volvo, which may be 22 years older than Batten, but the fact that his father, 61-year old Mike Batten, is in the co-driver's seat, perhaps evens things out.
A rally legend in his own right, Mike is a three-time NSW Rally Champion as a driver, but handed the keys of his beloved Volvo to Paul in 2008, and the pair hasn't looked back.
Fifth place in the Early Classic competition in 2008 was followed by a momentous victory last year, with plans to repeat the success in 2010.
"Our aim is for a podium place in the Classic handicap competition, but we will drive our own event and not worry about the results until Sunday afternoon," Paul says.
"We really look forward to driving on the brilliant roads each day, but there is an element of caution as Targa has a habit of catching people out.
"We're looking forward to the event, catching up with fellow competitors, and trying to replicate the way classic cars, and Volvos in particular, were driven in their heyday."
Their striking red Volvo has a long motorsport history, having contested every Targa since 1999.
The car was imported from the USA, as the model was not sold in Australia, and since being converted to a Targa car it has embarrassed many more fancied entries. But that's not all that surprising.
"In 1964 a Volvo works team PV544 won the European Rally Championship. Back then the serious competition came from the Austin Healey 3000, Mini Cooper S, Saab 96, Ford Cortina GT and Citroen DS19," Paul adds.
The Volvo runs twin Weber carburettors, a performance camshaft, up-rated suspension and a close ratio four-speed gearbox, so ita s no slouch through the twisting stages of Targa Tasmania.
Having said that, the Battens agree that endurance is a major factor in Targa success.
"The old car needs a lot of attention over five days.
"And we're hoping for dry weather too. The Volvo is difficult enough to drive without rain," Paul stresses.
A service crew of three will maintain the Swedish car over the six days of Targa Tasmania, which begins with the Temco Prologue through the streets of George Town on Tuesday, April 27.
After moving around Tasmania, with overnight halts in Launceston and Strahan, the event finishes with the podium finish at Hobarta s Wrest Point on Sunday, May 2.
-source: targa tasmania