BBC Top Gear Magazine entering Wales Rally GB in unique Hyundai i20

Strikingly-liveried Hyundai i20 put through its paces at BrenigAdvice from FIA World Rally Championship front-runner Hayden Paddon

BBC Top Gear Magazine’s Ollie Marriage is champing at the bit to take on the legendary forests and trails of Wales Rally GB next month (13-16 November), after giving his newly-liveried Hyundai i20 a shakedown run at Brenig and receiving some words of advice from FIA World Rally Championship star Hayden Paddon.

The popular magazine’s Motoring Editor will compete at Wales Rally GB in the B2 class for under-1600cc front-wheel-drive machinery alongside talented young up-and-coming co-driver Jack Morton – a member of the MSA Academy Junior Co-driver Programme, which is overseen by National Co-driver Coach and Colin McRae’s former WRC navigator Nicky Grist.

The Top Gear Magazine team has worked closely with Hyundai Motor UK and the MSA throughout the project, sourcing parts from the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team and remaining in regular contact and collaboration throughout.

Having added further upgrades to what started out in life as a standard road car, Marriage pitched up to Wales Rally GB Media Day last week to put his modified i20 hatchback through its paces. He gives the lowdown on the story so far...

“The idea had been brewing for a while,” he explains. “The catalyst was a conversation we had shortly after Hyundai announced they were entering the WRC. Our aim was to take a standard road car and turn it into a rally car that looked as much like a WRC car as possible, but obviously didn’t have the same power and mechanical complexity.

“We collected a Hyundai i20 Classic 1.2-litre with 82bhp from Tilbury Docks in January, and after putting some miles on it, we took it to 586 Engineering who have turned it into a rally car by completely stripping it down, putting a roll cage in and adding last year’s body panels from the WRC test car. The whole process has been documented in Top Gear magazine and on the Topgear.com website over the last few months.

“We entered the Woodpecker Stages in August, where the car’s flat-out speed was 67mph – and we didn’t even get particularly close to hitting that very often! Since then, we’ve replaced the engine with a bigger 1.6-litre unit from Hyundai’s Veloster Coupé, and after putting it on the dyno, it now produces 154bhp at the wheels. Much more like it.

“The main target for the rally has to be to get to the finish – the embarrassment of going off on day one is something I’m extremely keen to avoid! It’s a tricky rally full of tricky stages and it’s inevitable that we will get tired – so I just hope we can keep it on the island, drive over that finish ramp and tell a great story in the magazine.

“That said, I’m a competitive soul and I would like to put in a respectable performance in our class. I’m just really excited about it and can’t wait for the rally to start!”

The Top Gear Magazine Hyundai appeared at Wales Rally GB Media Day at Llyn Brenig in north Wales sporting its striking new livery – designed by competition-winner Shabaz Bashir. It certainly caught the eye of Hyundai Motorsport driver Hayden Paddon, who was on-hand and offered Ollie some helpful words of advice.

“It definitely looks the part with all the kit on – really sharp,” enthused the former Production World Rally Champion from New Zealand. “I’m looking forward to seeing it in action out on the stages!

“For an event like Wales Rally GB, you really need to be patient and look after the car – because it can be a punishing few days. It will certainly be a good test of how well the Top Gear Magazine guys have built the car! The most important thing for them to remember is that it’s not a sprint – they’ll need to treat it like an endurance challenge – but I’m sure they will be well-prepared.”

As part of those preparations, Marriage and Morton also took on last weekend’s Cambrian Rally organised by the North Wales Car Club, ahead of the main event in mid-November.

Top Gear Magazine fans wanting to support Marriage’s efforts can meet him at the official Service Park in Deeside, Ceremonial Start in Eirias Stadium in Colwyn Bay, Remote Service in Newtown and Ceremonial Finish in Llandudno all for FREE. Tickets to catch the car in action on the spectacular Special Stages are available via the official website at www.walesrallygb.com or via the ticket hotline on 0844 847 2251.