Australian Rally Champions – Michael Boaden and Helen Cheers

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The thrill of rally driving has taken team mates Michael and Helen to new heights in their passion for the sport, they share their excitement about their DREAM YEAR of success …




For those who aren’t familiar with the sport, what is involved? What are your roles in the team?

Michael: Rallying is all about completing each special stage in the shortest amount of time. These special stages are usually held on closed forestry or shire roads, mainly on gravel surfaces, and are linked together by transport stages, where we are allowed time to travel to the next special stage.

As a driver, my role in the team is simply to drive as fast as I can without destroying the car, as the team with the lowest overall time is the winner.

Helen: My main role as a co-driver is to let Michael know exactly what is coming up ahead of us on the road. I do this using pace notes that we have previously written for the special stage. We get 2 passes over each special stage at normal road speed before the event, to write our notes. We use a system like the hands of a clock; for example, a right 3 is a 90 degree turn to the right and a crest 6 would be straight on over a blind crest.

What is it you enjoy most about rallying?

Michael: For me it is the adrenalin rush of driving as fast as I can through the bush. When you get to the end of a special stage and the notes have been spot on and you have been on the absolute limit of what you and the car can do, it’s a very satisfying feeling.

Helen: Like Michael said, it is the adrenalin rush, but it’s also very rewarding when your notes work perfectly and you get to the end of a stage and you know you couldn’t have gone any quicker. Also, the camaraderie with our fellow competitors is great.

How has the year gone for you so far – what are the race highlights or obstacles you have had through 2012?

Michael: This year has been a dream come true for us, but it has not been easy. Over the last couple of seasons we have worked hard and improved as a team, taking it one step at a time. We won our first special stage, which was a big achievement for a small team, then went on to win a heat, then our first ARC victory at Queensland earlier this year was awesome. But to win again at South Australia then back it up and win again at Coffs Harbour, where we tied up the championship, is absolutely unbelievable.

Helen: To say we have had a great year is a real understatement. To win anything at a national level is a great achievement for anybody. As far as highlights go, beating the record set by Simon and Sue Evans on the 32 km Tweeden stage at South Australia by 8 seconds was really special, but to have my family and friends at the finish at Coffs Harbour when we not only won the event, but secured the Australian 4WD Rally Championship, is something I will never forget.

The biggest achievement, I guess, is that with one race to go, you can’t be beaten and will be crowned the Australian 4WD Rally champions for 2012.

Congratulations! This is a great achievement for you both, isn’t it?

Michael: This is a massive achievement, not only for Helen and I, but for the whole team. It is really satisfying to know that a small country based team of family and friends can take on the best in the country and succeed, especially when we do all our own work on the car and only have a small budget compared to some of our competitiors. I really need to acknowledge our sponsors for 2012, as without them none of this would have happened. Special thanks to Wauchope Motors, Hollinger Engineering, Wauchope RSL Club and Blue Chip Mortgages in Port Macquarie.

How will this help propel you into 2013? 

Michael: The Australian Rally Championship will change in 2013 to a 2WD series, with teams running 2WD cars like the Honda of Eli Evans, so our Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9 will no longer be eligible to run for a Championship.

We are in the process of trying to get some backing for the 2013 season and hope the fact that we have won 3 NSW state titles and now the Australian 4WD title will help us make the change to a 2WD drive car. But we are still in the negotiation stages, and nothing has been confirmed at this point in time. Hopefully things will work and we will be back next year, so watch this space. We will update our website: as things progress towards the 2013 season.

Behind the scenes, how much prep goes into each race both personally and with your vehicle?

Michael: As you can imagine, running in an ARC Round gives the car a real caning at each event, so we generally strip the car down in our workshop at Wauchope Motors. We check engine, gearbox and suspension components to make sure they are OK and repair any superficial body damage we may have picked up during the event. Attention to detail in the workshop before we go to an event gives you a lot of confidence, so we can concentrate on our jobs of writing our pace notes and driving, without having to worry too much about mechanical problems.

Helen: On the pace noting side of things, if we are using the same roads, we tend to go through our previous in car video to familiarise ourselves with the roads and refine our notes before we get to an event. I also do a bit of gym work to try and stay fit, as I have no steering wheel to hang on to, and I have to be able to brace myself in the car.

What changes or improvements would you like to make for 2013 for the team?

Michael & Helen: Obviously we would like to be able to compete again at this level in a competitive 2WD car, but time will tell if this is possible. If we do get that opportunity, we won’t be changing a thing as far as our team or in house car preparation goes, as what we are doing now is working really well.

Have you considered overseas races? Is this a goal perhaps?

Michael & Helen: As far as racing overseas goes, we have previously competed quite successfully in the Otago Classic Rally and the Race to the Sky in New Zealand. We have also raced and been very competitive at the Coffs Harbour round of the World Rally Championship.

However, our main objective is to race in the 2013 Australian Rally Championship, as it is one of the most competitive rally series anywhere in the world.

Thanks Michael and Helen.

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