› Neil Simpson to contest Circuit of Ireland for the first time in his ŠKODA Fabia S2000
› Simpson ŠKODA dealer principal joined by ŠKODA Motorsport team on FIA European Rally Championship qualifier
Milton Keynes, 11 APRIL 2014 – Easter will be full of firsts for returnee rally driver Neil Simpson, as he makes his Circuit of Ireland debut in his ex-factory Simpsons ŠKODA Fabia S2000.
Co-driven by Claire Mole, Neil will head to the fast and bumpy closed Irish Tarmac lanes to compete against the top European teams and drivers – including the works ŠKODA Motorsport team, with Esapekka Lappi and Sepp Wiegand driving a pair of Fabia S2000s.
This will only be Neil’s third rally in his ex-ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia S2000, and as a privateer will be competing for position with the non-factory teams. His return to competition this year after a 12 year sabbatical has been spectacular, the 41-year old dealer principal from Clitheroe in Lancashire has won the Super 2000 class on his debut at both the North West Stages and Rallye Le Touquet.
Despite a hugely successful previous rallying career, which was put on hold at the end of 2001 to allow Neil to develop the now thriving Simpsons ŠKODA business, he has never contested the Circuit of Ireland before – although he has worked on the event twice, doing gravel notes for former British Rally Champion Mark Higgins and Irish driver Brendan Kelly.
Neil said: “I’ve never contested the Circuit of Ireland before, so in addition to looking forward to doing such a famous rally for the first time, I’m also really looking forward to competing in a round of the European Rally Championship and against the very best Super 2000 and R5 cars and drivers. The ŠKODA Fabia S2000 was built for the ERC, so having been out of rallying for twelve years, it will be great to match myself against the very best non-factory European teams. I’m not going to pretend I’ll be anywhere near the pace of the factory teams like ŠKODA Motorsport, although I’d like to think we’ll be able to hold our own against the non-works ERC regulars.
“The key to a successful run on the Circuit of Ireland will be a good pre-event test and recce. We’re going to be using the brand new Pirelli RX tyre for the first time, and we’ll test three different compounds on a road near Dungannon. Then it will be straight into the recce and the three-day event itself, so it’s going to be a very busy week.
“As so much will be new to us, they’ll be no heroics at the start of the Circuit of Ireland. Our tactic of starting fairly steadily and increasing our pace has worked well on our two previous rallies this year, so we’ll aim to do the same next weekend.”
This year’s Circuit of Ireland is based at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast and begins with a Qualifying stage on Thursday 17 April, followed by the ceremonial start in Belfast at 19.00. A tough 13 hour day follows, with 10 stages totalling 70.4 miles (113.3kms) – including the new Ards TT Town Centre Special Stage, taking in Conway Square and surrounding roads in Newtownards, and a refuel stop in Ballynahinch Rugby Club. The final day on Saturday 19 April contains a further eight stages totalling 72.77 miles (117.12kms) – including two runs over Bronte Homeland which, at 18.05 miles (29.06kms), is the longest stage of the rally. There is also a pair of spectator stage in Lisburn and refuelling in Banbridge. The rally finishes after 18 stages and 143.17 miles (230.42kms) of flat-out competition at 18.00.
Picture copyright free courtesy of Francois of Maxicorde
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