The Neikšāns Story – Pēteris Neikšāns
Our experience stems from more than 40 years in the rally sport industry. The Neiksans story began in Bauska in 1973 where a 16 year old boy, Pēteris Neikšāns, discovered a passion for motocross. Competing whenever he could, he received his first prestigious award, ‘USSR master of sports’ in motocross only a few years later.
In the years that followed Pēteris changed to motorbike racing on pavement, which unfortunately resulted in a back injury and an early end to his motorbike career for the young racer. However, his retirement from racing wasn’t permanent and after some time spent recuperating he soon returned, this time racing on four wheels.
With his racing career on the up and at the forefront of his daily life, Pēteris still found time for his family and in 1983 his first son, Māris, was born closely followed by a second son, Andis, in 1985.
Pēteris reached the pinnacle of his car racing career in 1990, winning a starting place in the FIA European Autocross Championship and finishing in second place in front of a large crowd of local fans.. This made him the first Latvian driver ever to stand on the podium in a European championship event. By the end of the 1990 season Pēteris found himself in fourth place in the results table!
1992 saw Pēteris compete in his final autocross event. His racing career was at an end, but he couldn’t leave his passion behind completely and five years later he returned to the sport as the team manager and coach for his sons.
The early years of the Neikšāns brothers
With their father riding high in auto cross and rally, it is hardly surprising that racing, and cars in particular, have always been an essential part of the brothers’ lives. As they were growing up, it could be said racing was in their blood and to Māris and Andis it wasn’t important what make of car it was, as long as they could race it! Before long the young Māris Neikšāns won his first achievement and became the Latvian champion in karting.
After a year spent karting, the brothers then decided take a different direction and they made the move across to racing cars, heralding the start of their career in rally and autocross. Māris’ first vehicle was actually a VAZ 2108, that his father, Pēteris had built himself.
In 2001, at the tender age of 18, Māris Neikšāns went on to win two Latvian championship titles, one in rallycross and the other in autocross, racing a VW Golf 3 that he had built himself
2002 arrived and Māris made his debut in touring car racing, and what a debut it was – he triumphed on his first attempt!
The world of Rally
They first began racing in a Lada Samara, entering several rallysprint events. The family then came to the conclusion that rally driving was the path they wanted to take to further their careers. So in 2003 Māris Neikšāns competed in every Rally Championship event that was held in Latvia that year, earning himself the title of Latvian champion in the 1600 FWD class.
2004 was a high point for the family as they gained the sponsorship of Latvia’s first mobile phone operator, Latvijas Mobilais Telefons, and the LMT Rally Team was born. During its first year, Māris Neikšāns and Edgars Utāns partnered up to race an untried car that had never been driven before in a rally race in Latvia – a Ford Puma (Super 1600 class). In the same year Māris took up a new challenge and took part in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) event in Finland.
In 2005, Māris competed with a 4-wheel drive car, beginning with a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI. With the 2006 season approaching, the Neikšāns family garage was put to full use as the team constructed a new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. This was entered in the Latvian championship and driven by the partnership of Māris Neikšāns and Māris Jēkabsons. Meanwhile, Andis Neikšāns partnered Edgars Utāns in a Renault Clio. Both teams were fighting for the top position in their classes, and the LMT Rally Team won the team championship.
Two completely new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX rally cars were then built by the Neikšāns team in 2007. They finished the year triumphantly, with Māris the victor in two rallies, and his brother, Andis, finishing second in the Latvian championship. The most prestigious event of the year had been the Finnish WRC event, in which Māris finished in third place in the N4 class and overall reached twentieth place in the results table. This was a huge achievement, the highest accolade a Latvian driver had ever achieved in a world championship event.
With orders coming in thick and fast from several different customers, the Neikšāns team went from strength to strength, constructing half a dozen brand new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX cars between 2007 and 2008. Crews of these vehicles competed for prime positions both in home and international events.
With his driving career thriving, Māris co-drove with Gundars Kreilis in 2008, winning in the N4 class of the FIA North European Zone.
In 2008 and 2009, the Neikšāns team took on a new role, servicing the vehicle driven by the Feldmanis crew (Andris and Krists), during the Dakar rally raid. Also at the beginning of 2009, the Neikšāns team constructed Latvia’s first ever Mitsubishi rally car: the Lancer Evolution X, piloted by Raimonds Strokšs, the two-time Latvian champion in the L13 class. Also in one of their greatest ventures, the LMT Rally Team participated in every FIA World Rally Championship tournaments that year in PWRC class! During the next couple of years, the team made convincing wins in all the Latvian rally championships.
Neiksans Rally Sport today
In 2012, Māris decided it was time to end on a high note and retire from competitive racing. By then he had been Latvian champion eight times, and as his father had done, he took a sideward step into driver coaching, enabling him share his expertise with others. Gone was the LMT Rally team name, it was subsequently to be known as Neiksans Rally Sport, and the team began to focus on working with and supporting clients. Based still in Bauska, Maris continues his interest in the world of racing and rally sport, most importantly teaching a new generation of drivers to follow in his footsteps in a specially designed programme for beginners where they can learn their trade in a safe environment. Other courses taught at the school are perfect for those wishing to gain more experience in rally cross, rally raid and an upcoming new drift course.
Although retired from professional racing, Māris continues to participate in a few rallying events from time to time, mostly outside his native country. Most notably, in February 2016, he participated in the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup. During this event he drove a T1 class prototype prepared by Jean-Louis Schlesser, and came away with a somewhat astonishing but oh so beautiful triumph!
Andis Neiksans, a two-time Latvian champion and the winner of a WRC round in Finland, is dedicated to the sport and has had a successful career as a rally driver over the past decade now offering his skills and knowledge to help others achieve their goals and victories.