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The 800bhp Kiwi Kona rally car now has a carbon bodykit

Hayden Paddon's electric rally car project is back underway after a forced break

After a period of inactivity (guess why…) the Kiwi Kona is back in development. It’s World Rally driver Hayden Paddon’s take on an electric rally car – a Hyundai Kona with the potential for 800bhp coursing through it – and now that lockdown’s eased in his native New Zealand, the project is back up at full strength.

“Over the last four weeks we’ve had a really big push and made quite considerable progress,” he told us. “A big push before lockdown means we’ve had a solid eight weeks of recent work on the car.”

Naturally, a global pandemic has impacted Paddon’s plan for the Kona. The project’s budget has been cut to ensure his workshop doesn’t have to lose any staff, and plans for it to compete a full 2021 season in the New Zealand Rally Championship (against petrol powered cars, excitingly) have changed as a three-month delay means the Kona won’t be finished in time for the first rounds.

But a lack of motorsport action in 2020 is allowing his team to cancel out some of the hold-up, with more time dedicated to the Kona’s build than anticipated.

“The chassis and cage are nearly done,” he says. “As of next week the car will be fitted with its motors and transmission to check their mountings, though we’ll have to make a mock battery. The real thing only recently left Europe due to lockdown.

“We’re expecting the battery to arrive mid-July, but by that stage the rest of the car will be ready. This last phase is going to happen really quickly.”

So the car will roll out of the workshop sometime in August, before entering full testing in September. And with more focus on the project than originally planned, Paddon reckons it’ll be extra special.

“We’re being more thorough elsewhere and we’re really pushing the envelope with its design, inside and out. We don’t want it to look like a normal rally car, we want to design a ‘new normal’. Something a bit more eye-catching than what people are used to.”

The pictures above preview the Kona’s body kit, with wildly protruding wheel arches like all the most iconic rally cars wear.

“We’ve actually gone quite subtle with the aero kit,” says Paddon. “It’ll all be about to attention to detail. The whole body kit will be carbon. It’s a dummy kit in the photos as we’ve still got to do all the bonnet, roof and rear panels in single-piece carbon.”

The arches aren’t just for show, either. “There’s a lot of suspension travel – the same as a World Rally car. A Kona is a great base car, because it’s bigger than an i20 so can hold a lot more batteries. There’ll be an element of getting used to the size of the car on the road, but handling-wise the package – from what we see on our software – is going to be right on the money. There’s a lot of weight, but it’s all between the axles. And right on the ground from mounting the EV powertrain as low as possible.”

The final stages of the Kona’s development will see it compete in a bunch of short sprints and hillclimbs in early 2021, including New Zealand’s Goodwood, the Leadfoot Festival. Given Paddon’s also promised a ‘spectacular’ soundtrack, it should be quite a thing to witness.

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