Neil Simpson and Whitsome co-driver Claire Mole are to contest more European rallies after another strong performance in Ypres
Despite feeling unwell, the 41-year old dealer principal from Clitheroe in Lancashire was in a close battle for fifth place when his Skoda Fabia S2000 slipped into a ditch on the long Hollebeke stage (SS14) on Day 2.
It took him and Claire, along with a group of spectators, 20 minutes to free the car – and with hopes of a good result gone, Neil decided to withdraw the Pirelli-shod car to ensure that it is in top condition for this week’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Ypres was Neil’s second ERC outing this year, having finished fifth on the Circuit of Ireland Rally. After another competitive showing, Neil and Claire have decided to change their remaining 2014 programme and contest the Barum Czech Rally Zlín (August 29-31), Rallye du Valais (October 23-25) and the Tour of Corsica (November 6-8).
Freddy Loix won the Ypres Rally for a ninth time, securing Skoda’s fifth consecutive victory on the famous Belgian asphalt event. Skoda Deutschland’s Sepp Wiegand finished third, while former European Rally Champion Luca Rossetti made it three Fabia S2000s in the top five.
Claire said: “We were having a good run in Ypres and trying to finish in the top five when we put a wheel on the grass on the outside of a fast left hand corner. Unfortunately, it pulled the car into a deep ditch, and we had to go and look for spectators to help get us out.
“It took 20 minutes to free the car and we then had to stop and change a wheel, as a tyre had been pushed off the rim. Neil wasn’t feeling great and with Goodwood so close we decided to withdraw the car, rather than continue down in 40th place.
“We’ve had a great run of results and we are really enjoying the European Rally Championship events, so we’ve decided to change our plans for the remainder of the season and plan to do Barum, Valais and hopefully the Tour of Corscia.”
Neil’s Fabia S2000 will now be put into gravel specification for the Goodwood Festival of Speed – where he’ll make his driving debut on the Skoda UK-supported Goodwood Forest Rally Stage (June 26-29).