NEIL Simpson is set to make his rallying comeback next month following a 12-year absence from the sport.
The Colne businessman has secured a deal to run an ex-works Skoda Fabia Super 2000, in selected British and European tarmac rounds.
The car – and driver – will make their first appearance togther at the Autosport Show at the NEC this weekend, followed by a debut run on the Legend Fires North West Stages in February.
Simpson enjoyed a succesful career in rallying spanning a decade in the 1990s, culminating in securing a works drive with Volkswagen UK for the British Championship.
He made rallying history by becoming the first driver to rally a turbodiesel-powered Golf, finishing second overall on the Manx International, earning himself the Star of the Rally award.
After retiring from the sport 12 years ago, Simpson has been busy building his successful Simpsons Skoda dealerships in Colne and Preston.
“I absolutely love the sport, but I made a personal commitment to focus on growing the business, without any distractions, for 10 years,” said Simpson.
“Now I feel the time is right to get back behind the wheel and see if I still have what it takes!
“Over the years, I met some great people and made many friends, and I’ve stayed friends with them.
“I also kept in touch with the sport, and helped Skoda UK when they were contesting the IRC with Andreas Mikkelsen a couple of years ago.
“Obviously, having two Skoda dealerships means that I have strong links with the factory and the motorsport arm, so it was natural to go for a Fabia. We went over to the Mlada Boleslav factory in the Czech Republic to buy a car, and came back with this fantastic Fabia Super 2000.”
After the Autosport Show, the team, which will be managed by rally driver Ashley Field, plan an intensive testing programme prior to a first appearance on the Legend Fires North West Stages.
Simpson, who will have highly-rated Northumberland navigator Claire Mole alongside him for the season, has pencilled in another seven events for 2014.
Although not finalised, they are expected to be Le Touquet, Manx International, ERC Rally Ireland, LAMC Dublin, Wexford or WRC France, and the Condroz Rally.
“The plan for the first event is just to get round without any problems and get the car home in one piece, after that we'll see,” added Simpson.