Michael Boaden – Australian Rally Championship

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Wauchope brother and sister team secure Kumho Future Champions Award in the wild west. Chrissy Jones chats with Helen about their experience and what they have accomplished.

Wauchope rally driver, Michael Boaden and his co-driving sister, Helen Cheers have just returned home after competing in the Quit Forest Rally of Western Australia in the Nannup area, three hours south of Perth.

> Michael and yourself have achieved one of your goals for the 2010 rally season – to win the premier league division for privateers.  Congratulations Helen and tell us more:

Driving our Wauchope Motors prepared Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9, our team has won the premier league division; finished 11th outright, and also won the prestigious Kumho Tyres Future Champion Award from a field of over 60 of Australia’s best drivers in the Quit Forest Rally at Nannup in Western Australia.

> How did this come about?

After winning three consecutive NSW state rally titles, Michael and myself – with the support of our team and sponsors, decided to take the step up to the Australian Rally Championships and set a goal for the season … to win the Premier League division for privateer runners.

> What is the Premier League division?

This division is a new cost-saving initiative introduced for the 2010 Australian Rally Championships, that sees all competitors using a Kumho ‘control tyres’ to reduce costs and promote a level playing field.

The premier league competitors are limited to 10 tyres per event, and have to run their cars on commercially available pump grade fuel.

> What’s involved in preparing for such a competition?

Before the start of competition the team used Thursday to write their pace notes and prepare the car for scrutineering. As this was the first time Michael and myself had competed on the 20 special stages in Western Australia, considerable time and effort was required to write their pace notes.

To the uninitiated this may sound like a simple task, but pace notes are arguably the most crucial part of the rallying process, as they communicate the upcoming road conditions to the driver. This then dictates the speed at which a corner or blind crest is approached. A simple missed call or mistake in the pace notes can make or break an event … with mistakes at 160km per hour usually very costly.

Once the pace notes have been written they are checked on a second pass of the stages, during which an in-car camera records the calls and footage. The final part of the pace-noting process then involves refining the notes while reviewing the footage on a PC or TV.

As the pace notes can only be written at legal road speeds, considerable modification may be required as competition speed will be much higher than when the notes were originally written.

Once written the pace notes become the link between driver and co-driver – with a good set of notes saving time and allowing the driver to fully commit to road conditions that he can’t see yet.

While the crew is writing their pace notes, the rest of the team is preparing the car for scrutineering. This involves a rigorous safety check and ensures the car complies with all the rules associated with the different classes of competition.

> How did the competition begin?

The competition began on Friday night in front of 3,000 spectators on the 2.2 km ‘tarmac’ super special stage around the waterfront at Busselton. The crowd was thrilled by the country’s top rally crews, as well as the motorbike division which was included in an Australian Rally Championship event for the first time.

After successfully completing two runs around the super special stage without incident we put the car into ‘parc  ferme’ ready for the start of the gravel stages on Saturday morning at Nannup.

> Were there any problems during the rally?

While we managed to achieve our goal of winning the premier league competition, the weekend was not without its problems.

Due to limited testing time after converting our state championship winning Evolution 7 into an Evolution 9 over the off season, some problems surfaced during Saturday morning. A broken rear diff mount on the second stage kept the service crew busy, and resulted in a two minute time penalty for booking into the next stage later than their allocated time.

The crew regrouped after this setback to put in some consistent times and despite their penalty, managed to finish in the top 10 outright after the completion of competition on Saturday night.

Sunday morning saw the competitors return to the forests around Nannup for the final day of competition. While Michael and I set some very competitive times in the early stages, some rear brake problems manifested themselves later in the day which caused us to drop quite a few places in the outright results. However, we were able to get the car to the finish and retain the lead in the premier league.

Although the team encountered some technical problems they came away from Western Australia with the maximum amount of premier league points, a lot of data, and experience in the new car.

> What’s the next event for Michael the Wauchope based mechanic, and Helen the mortgage broker from Bonny Hills?

Our next event will be round three of the Australian Rally Championship which will be held in Coffs Harbour from 14 to 16th May. The team will use the next month to further develop the new car and hopefully eliminate the teething problems experienced in Western Australia.

Michael and I would like to thank our team, supporters and sponsors – Wauchope Motors, Castrol and Wauchope Retravision – for their support in our 2010 Australian Rally Championship premier league campaign.

According to John Mills, Kumho’s motorsport co-ordinator, Michael and Helen won the first Future Champions Award for their driving efforts and their determination by travelling across the continent to compete in the WA round of the ARC.

“The Kumho Future Champions Award is about more than just outright results, it is about the grit and determination that is required to get to the top in rallying and Michael and Helen along with their team displayed that in trumps across the weekend in WA,” said John Mills.

The Award has been designed to help ARC Premier League drivers to step up to the elite level and give them the encouragement and incentive to continue in what is a demanding and expensive sport.

> Well done Helen and Michael, thanks for your time and good luck at Coffs Harbour and into the future.

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