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After a disappointing outing at last month’s Rally Queensland Michael Boaden is confident that continued refinement and development on his Volkswagen Polo would yield results heading into the final Rounds of the season.

Boaden arrived in Queensland ready to put his newly acquired Polo to good use having spent the first half of the year in Justin Dowel’s Polo, but almost immediately he found his rally spoiled by a failed component on his engine.

“It was almost too simple to believe, the housing that’s part of the water pump broke clean off, it’s a plastic part and it just wasn’t up to the task,” explained Boaden.

“Losing that meant the water all dropped out, the engine started to overheat and we lost oil pressure. If we’d continued on we could have blown the engine and that would have been a disaster. We’ve pulled the engine apart after Queensland and it’s in good shape, so we’re pretty lucky,” he added.

The retirement in Queensland meant his weekend was over almost as soon as it had begun, and the valuable mileage Boaden was looking forward to putting onto the new car came to an instant halt. It has though allowed his team to work on refining the Polo’s engine for the remainder of the season.

“We knew it’d take some time to learn this car and to get it working for us. By needing to pull the engine apart it’s given us a chance to order some new parts and to put it back together the way we want to. Also the plastic part that broke in Queensland, well we’re going to machine a new one out of aluminum!”

Earlier in the year both Boaden and fellow VW driver Mick Patton had identified the steering as an area that needed improvement in the Polo, both felt the lock-to-lock turn ratio was too slow. At Rally Queensland Justin Dowel ran a quicker steering rack in his Polo, but Boaden is skeptical of the benefits.

“I think talking to Justin the improvement is there, but there is a massive cost associated as it’s a steering rack VW developed for the World Rally Car. So the cost versus the benefit probably isn’t going to make it worthwhile,” said Michael.

“Instead I’m focusing on easy areas, like the suspension, getting the car to work a bit better. We spent some time with Murray Coote and I’ve made some pretty major changes to the suspension geometry. We’re getting better traction and in these front-wheel drive cars that’s massively important.”

The Polo’s of Dowel, Patton and Boaden were built in South Africa for the domestic Championship, and with prior years of experience the Aussie trio have been leaning on their South African counterparts to help with development, the experience though as Boaden explains has been an interesting one.

“To be honest the guys in South Africa don’t really understand why we’ve had problems. But I think they just aren’t used to how hard the cars are being pushed in the Australian Rally Championship, the pace is full on!”

“I look at Eli Evans’ stage times in Queensland and when he’s beating the times of Lippi’s Skoda S2000 you know he’s probably the fastest guy rallying a two-wheel drive anywhere in the World. So we’re having to explain to the South African guys that just because they didn’t hit problems doesn’t mean we won’t.”

In the six week gap between Queensland and the next Round in Coffs Harbour Boaden is feeling buoyant about his prospects.

“We go to Coffs now, which you can say is like my home rally, and I’m pretty happy with how we’re going. I want to get through the weekend without an issue and my goal is to be close to the pace of Mark Pedder, because by the end of the year I’d like to be beating him,” Michael said.

“Mark’s been driving well though, he’s stepped it up the last couple of Rounds, and he’s going to be hard to catch. But at Rally Oz I’m going to be pushing a bit harder too so we’ll see if we can’t get the upper hand!” he added.
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