(29 September 1999 - VW UK press release)

Volkswagen's revolutionary Golf turbodiesel rally car has just completed a hugely successful first season of competition in the British Rally Championship.

Not only did the Golf TDI - driven by Lancashire's Neil Simpson - win the championship's inaugural Diesel Cup but it also humbled some much more powerful petrol cars along the way.

Not exactly a tractor, is it?

Right from the outset the Greenergy-fuelled Golf proved itself a force to be reckoned with, racking up strong placings on both the Rally of Wales in March and April's Pirelli International Rally.

But when the series switched from forest-based events to the asphalt of the Jim Clark Memorial Rally in the Scottish Borders in early July, it was time for 27-year-old Simpson and his Ulster-based co-driver Mike Gibson really to show their mettle. They finished the Jim Clark in ninth place overall to set a new diesel-car record for the championship.

And the records kept on tumbling. The Ulster Rally at the end of July saw the Golf TDI fighting through to fifth place overall, setting the scene for a dramatic final-round display of diesel dazzle on the Isle of Man in September. Simpson crossed the Sony Manx International Rally finish line behind only one other car, the petrol-powered Renault of Martin Rowe.

Simpson, who earned the 'Star of the Rally' award for his drive, said: "It's been a magnificent year for me and for the diesel Golf. I think most of our rivals wrote us off as a bit of a joke at the beginning. But they're not laughing now!"

Simpson's Sony and Pirelli-backed car is mechanically very similar to the petrol-powered Golf GTIs with which Volkswagen claimed second place in the manufacturers championship, with the important exception that in place of the GTI's 20-valve, 280bhp 2-litre engine is a 1.9-litre TDI power unit, boosted by a Garrett turbocharger to give a maximum output of around 190bhp and torque of around 260lb.ft.

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