COLNE businessman Neil Simpson will contest the Circuit of Ireland for the first time this weekend.

Simpson and co-driver Claire Mole will head to the fast and bumpy closed Irish tarmac lanes to compete against top teams and drivers from across Europe, with the event part of the European Rally Championships.

The 41-year-old, competing in a Skoda Fabia S2000, will take on the likes of Esapekka Lappi and Sepp Wiegand on the Emerald Isle.

Simpson has made a superb return to competition this year after a 12-year absence to develop his thriving Simpson’s Skoda business.

Already in 2014 he has won the Super 2000 class at both the North West Stages and the Rallye Le Touquet.

Simpson has twice done gravel notes at the Circuit of Ireland, which starts in Belfast, but has never raced the event himself.

He 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 Skoda Fabia S2000 was built for the ERC, so having been out of rallying for 12 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 Skoda Motorsport, although I’d like to think we’ll be able to hold our own against the non-works ERC regulars.

“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.”