Neil Simpson achieved exactly what he set out to do on the Pirelli Carlisle Rally (April 30-1 May) by taking his Simpsons ŠKODA Fabia R5 to a MSA British Rally Championship points-scoring finish and ending an 18 month run of rally bad luck!
It had been 16 years since Simpson last competed in Kielder forest, but he was soon feeling back at home on the challenging fast, narrow and loose-surface gravel roads. Snow that covered England’s largest working forest on the recce had melted, leaving a wet and slippery surface for the seven stages that made up round three of the BRC.
Co-driven by Elliott Edmondson, Simpson was immediately inside the top 10 on the opening stage – although a right rear puncture and resulting spin on SS2 cost him time. With guests from sponsors Pirelli, Techron Fuel System Cleaners, SPAR, MIS Insurance, Speedline Corse and Xpression Event Solutions attending the event – as well as invited students from Blackburn College – Simpson was keen to put on a good show, and seventh fastest on SS3 moved him back up to 9th.
After holding that position during the overnight halt, the 44-year old ŠKODA UK dealer principal from Clitheroe in Lancashire was quick out of the box on day two, moving up to 8th on the opening stage of the final day – a BRC points-scoring position he was to hold until the finish of the event.
Neil Simpson said: “Our strategy for the Pirelli Carlisle Rally was to drive for a top ten finish, and that’s what we’ve achieved. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to do a pre-event test, as we had some work to do on the car following our off on the Circuit of Ireland, so after a lot of recent bad luck it was important for us to get to the finish. We’re still learning about the Fabia R5, and we made a few changes to the suspension settings between stages in Kielder, which gave us a lot of good feedback. This is the first rally I’ve finished in eighteen months. The longest run of retirements of my entire career has finally come to an end, and there is no looking back now. Our BRC campaign has got some points on the board and I couldn’t be happier – not just for myself, but for the entire Simpsons ŠKODA Motorsport team, who have put so much work into the project, and to all our sponsors and supporters.
Round 4 of the MSA British Rally Championship is the RSAC Scottish Rally (25 June).