16/09/2010 - 00:00

Pushing the boundaries

16/09/2010 - 00:00


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After almost 40 years behind the wheel of countless high-speed motor racing vehicles, Tom van Kann is preparing for the greatest challenge of his life.

Pushing the boundaries

After almost 40 years behind the wheel of countless high-speed motor racing vehicles, Tom van Kann is preparing for the greatest challenge of his life.

Set to kick off this week, Mr van Kann is in final preparations for his assault on the gruelling 3,600 kilometre race through the Western Australian outback known as the 2010 Australasian Safari.

Often referred to as the ‘Dakar Downunder’, Mr van Kann suggested the race is not for the faint hearted.

“This is the challenge of a lifetime,” Mr van Kann said.

“This will be the toughest thing I’ve done in 56 years on this planet.

“It’s nearly eight days of non-stop daylight competition over some of the roughest terrain in WA.”

He will face up to 100 moto, auto and quad competitors, including V8 Supercars racing favourite, Craig Lowndes, as they set off from Hillarys Boat Harbour on Friday afternoon.

Mr van Kann said he started racing as a teenager, inspired by his father who often competed in local rally driving events in the state’s southwest.

“From the time I was 17, when I first got my licence, I started competing,” he said.

“I was rally driving for about 10 years, which culminated in 1977 when I became state rally champion at 23 years old, the youngest ever at the time.”

He then spent about eight years racing in circuit and sprint events before raising a family and establishing a business became his focus.

However, the opportunity to get back in the co-driver’s seat and compete in a race-ready Mitsubishi Pajero with long time friend and racing partner Tony Flood was too great to ignore, despite the imposing obstacles often encountered during the Australasian Safari.

“I don’t know what we’re in for, but all I know is it’s not going to be walk in the park,” he said.

“Let’s hope we’re still the best of friends at the end of it, as these types of events are invariably a good test of a relationship.”

Mr van Kann will be taking time off from his day job as managing director of Scarborough-based Supply Solutions, a mining and heavy industry focused labor provider specialising in supplying warehousing, materials management and logistics staff.

He founded the company in 1986 and, with his wife Natasha, has grown the business into a significant labour supplier generating $3.5 million in annual turnover off the back of clients such as Newmont, Newcrest and BHP Billiton.

And he reckoned there are numerous lessons learnt on the racetrack that he’s been able to draw upon to assist in running his business.

“It’s really the challenges that are presented, and not being afraid to accept those challenges and then working out the best way to problem solve,” he said.

“It’s a continuous barrage of problems, as races never run smoothly, which is much the same as business.”

Recalling an incident at Barbagallo Raceway where he had to coordinate personnel and parts to get his vehicle fixed and race ready in just half an hour, he suggested similar situations often occur in business.

“I’ve had a person lined up for an assignment and at the eleventh hour I’ve got the call to say they’re no longer available and I’ve had 12 hours to get a body onto a plane to go to a mine site,” he said.

“That takes a fair bit of coordination.”



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