NEIL Simpson will fulfil a personal ambition next week when he contests this weekend’s Rallye Le Touquet for the first time.

The opening round of the French Rally Championship takes place in the beautiful Nord Pas de Calais region of France, just across the English Channel.

Simpson has visited the area many times, but this is the first opportunity he’s had to contest the two-day event.

The 41-year old dealer principal from Clitheroe made a sensational return to rallying last month after a 12-year break, finishing second overall on his local North West Stages.

With a dozen more powerful World Rally Cars among the 140-car French entry, a similar result in Le Touquet is unlikely – although Simpson and co-driver Claire Mole will be aiming for a good performance in the Super 2000 category.

He said: “Le Touquet is a rally I’ve always wanted to do, but have never had the opportunity before – so when we were planning this year’s rally programme it was an event that just had to be on the calendar.

“I’ve been to the rally several times doing gravel notes for other drivers, and I just love that area of France and the people, so I’m really looking forward to going back and competing there for the first time.

“It’s a long and difficult rally, with fast narrow roads and long sections between service.

“I’ve been watching quite a lot of old on-board footage from the event on YouTube, and the stages certainly have a unique character. It’s definitely a rally you have to be very clean and precise on.

“The weather could play a huge part, and in anticipation of a lot of water and mud on the roads, we’ve got some very good Pirelli tyres that will help us find the grip we need.”

The 54th running of the Rallye Le Touquet starts at 10.30am on Friday with day one containing seven stages – including, at 15.2 miles (24.5kms), the longest stage of the event.

Day two on Saturday contains another seven stages, including a 33.2 mile (53.5km) loop of three stages without service – which is repeated in the afternoon.

The final stage is along the seafront at Le Touquet.