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Simpson CoI16a– Neil Simpson aims for points-scoring MSA British Rally Championship finish
– Simpsons’ ŠKODA dealer principal to drive Fabia R5 on Tarmac classic in Northern Ireland

Neil Simpson has set his sights on a top 10 finish on the Circuit of Ireland Rally (7-9 April), which he’ll contest in his Simpsons ŠKODA Fabia R5.

Despite a long and distinguished international rally career, during which time Neil became a works Volkswagen Motorsport driver, the 44-year old ŠKODA UK dealer principal from Clitheroe in Lancashire has only contested the Circuit of Ireland Rally once before – and that was in 2014, after he’d returned to the sport from a 12 year sabbatical.

Having stopped rallying to build up the family Simpsons of Preston and Colne ŠKODA dealership business, Neil finished an impressive fifth on the 2014 Circuit of Ireland Rally, driving an ex-ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia S2000.

This time Neil will start the classic Tarmac event in a new ŠKODA Fabia R5, and he’ll be hoping to restart his 2016 MSA British Rally Championship campaign, after suffering an early bath on the opening Mid Wales Stages. The start of his first BRC programme for 16 years ended when the pop-off valve (a non-ŠKODA made FIA R5 regulation part supplied to stop cars over-boosting) exploded as he left the start line of the opening stage.

With six scores from seven rallies to count, Neil’s 2016 BRC season begins with a clean slate on the Circuit of Ireland – and with support from Pirelli, Techron Fuel System Cleaners, SPAR, MIS Insurance, Speedline Corse and Xpression Event Solutions, he and co-driver Elliott Edmondson will test their Fabia R5 on a Tarmac road in Wales, prior to heading to Belfast for the start of the event.

Simpson CoI16bNeil Simpson said: “The Circuit of Ireland is one of the standout events in this year’s MSA British Rally Championship, and I’m really looking forward to returning to the challenging Tarmac roads of Northern Ireland. I’ve only done the event once before, and finished fifth in 2014. However, over my career I’ve done the Ulster Rally and many of the stages, or at least part of them, several times, so I have a good feel for the terrain and know what to expect. The weather can often have a dramatic effect on the outcome of the event, and making the correct tyre choice will be vital. It will be a tough event, the competition is very strong indeed, and I’d be delighted if we could come home with a top ten result.”

This year’s Circuit of Ireland Rally contains 14 stages and a total of 130.92 competitive miles. The event begins with a Qualifying Stage at midday on Thursday 7 April (which will determine the running order for Leg1), followed by the ceremonial in Lisburn at 18.45. Leg 1 on Friday 8 April contains six stages and 57.90 miles, and includes the famous Torr Head and Glendun stages, before ending with the Ards TT Stage in the centre of Newtownards. Leg 2 on Saturday 9 April is the longest, with a further eight stages close to Banbridge, Ballynahinch and Dromore, totalling 73.02 miles, before the closing podium celebrations outside Queen’s University in Belfast at 18.10. Rally headquarters and the centralised service area will be located at the King’s Hall Complex in Balmoral, South Belfast.

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