'Czech Mate! for Fabia man Hughes'.

British Rally Championship Production Cup front runner Simon Hughes has announced a one year deal to contest the SKODA Fabia Rally Cup, taking place in Czech Republic, Croatia and Slovakia in 2005.

The 21 year old Welshman from Colwyn Bay has agreed a deal with 2004 Championship winners MAX Racing to contest the eight round series, which is based exclusively on tarmac roads. With over 1200 stage miles on offer during the course of the season, the championship has been keenly contested in recent seasons, and represents an excellent opportunity for Hughes to gain valuable experience and competitive mileage after a season of highs and lows.

Hughes will be partnered by experienced Stranraer based Ulsterman Glenn Patterson for the season, after the pair enjoyed some recent successes with leading Subaru preparation experts 22 Motorsport in the British Rally Championship Production Cup. Hughes took a fine victory on the recent Tempest Stages Rally to notch up his first ever Production Category success behind the wheel of a 22 Motorsport run Subaru Impreza N10.

For 2005 however, the change of machinery is a significant one. The Fabia Cup is open to identically prepared 1400cc Skoda Fabia rally cars, producing around 140bhp. Whilst the Fabia may be humble in terms of performance, Hughes is under no illusions that a season in the predominantly Czech based series will be an easy affair:

"From what I have seen, the championship is keenly contested and rewards consistent and quick performances from a driver. We've decided to enter the Cup as it offers the potential to do a lot of stage miles in a competitive environment, and the opportunity to put more work into my pace notes is also something not to be missed. Its a high profile series, backed by SKODA Auto themselves, and it also receives support from the likes of Michelin who provide control tyres. I'm really looking forward to seeing some different parts of the world next year, and some new challenges in the process."

Hughes recently travelled to the Czech Republic to test the Fabia, and was pleased with the performance of the 1400cc machine.

"Its a good strong package. All the cars weigh 1000kg, so they are feel solid and stable. Overall it feels a well sorted rally car. The gearing is good, and the handling of the car on the wet tarmac roads was very impressive. I'm sure that it will be a close run thing for the championship, as the Czech drivers taking part have good experience of the roads so we'll certainly have our work cut out when the Cup begins in February next year. That said, we'll be going out there in a positive frame of mind and looking to build on some recent good form."

Hughes will battle with around 12 other drivers for the prize on offer - a brand new Skoda Fabia vRS road car for the Championship winner. Generous cash prizes are also on offer for the series, and Simon's participation gets underway at the Rallye Sumava in the Klatovy region of the Czech Republic on February 17-19 2005. The event is similar to Monte Carlo with its snow covered tarmac roads and hilly mountain stages. Hughes will also contest rallies in Croatia and Slovakia as part of the Championship.

Simon will spend a three days near Prague testing his newly built Fabia ahead of the opening round in February soon, as the team begins its preparations for a busy years rallying. In the meantime, Hughes is continuing to investigate opportunities here in the UK for a potential British Rally Championship campaign that would dovetail with his Czech commitments.