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  1. Top Gear magazine has built a rally car. Yes, really. It’s taken us a while because we started with nothing but a completely bog-standard Hyundai i20 1.2 Classic. In white. Our aim is to take it all the way to Wales Rally GB - the last round of the World Rally Championship (WRC) in November - quite an ambitious aim given that at the start of this year neither car, nor driver for that matter, knew what was about to hit them.

    This is the story so far.

  2. First we had to find our i20. It arrived into Tilbury docks off a boat from Korea and was parked up among 7,000 other Hyundais. Many of which were also white i20s.

  3. Success! After several hours of hunting we find our car and ascertain that it moves under its own steam. Ollie Marriage takes it home and runs the little 1.2 in gently. At least that what he says…

  4. A big box arrives from Germany. In it are a set of bodywork panels from Hyundai’s WRC team. 2014 is Hyundai’s first year in the WRC and they’ve let us have a set of last year’s fibreglass test panels.

    We want our little i20 to look like a full house WRC car. It might not drive like one, though.

  5. Ollie has a lovely time popping bubblewrap and finally emerges with the most important panel of all - the rear wing. It is massive. It also weighs the same as a baby elephant. Hmm.

  6. With that we leave our i20 in the capable hands of the chaps at 586 Motorsport in Brackley for a while. We say capable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean delicate. They proceed to perform invasive surgery of a kind that makes us squeamish.

  7. And they’re done! Not really. Steve and Calum Black’s first step was making sure that the panels actually fit the bodywork without too much cut-n-shut needed.

  8. After that the entire car was stripped down to its bare welds ready for the next step. Notice how it rides a bit high? That’s because of all the weight that’s been removed. Oh, and the track widths have been temporarily widened to show where the new panels will sit.

  9. Time for the roll cage to go in. Lovely bit of steelwork, but basically puts back in all the weight we’ve just taken out.

  10. It takes the people at Custom Cages two days to weld the whole cage into place. Not only does it provide rollover protection, but mounted to the chassis/suspension pick-ups it also strengthens the whole car frame.

  11. With that it’s back to 586 for the next stage: putting in some proper suspension. Reiger make the dampers for most of the WRC teams, not to mention supplying pretty much the entire Dakar Rally field, from bikes to trucks weighing 80 times as much.

  12. There are issues. The plan had been to fit the bigger 1.6-litre engine from the Hyundai Veloster, but electronics intervened. Basically the i20s ECU wouldn’t recognize the Veloster’s electric steering system. So we’re back to square one.

  13. We do at least have a proper gearbox. Behind the little 1.2 - all 82bhp of it - lurks a six-speed Hewland sequential rally gearbox with a super short final drive ratio to help our teeny terror make the most of its, ahem, power.

  14. And here it is, Mighty White, ready for action.

  15. Gratuitous rear view.

  16. Ah yes, the spoiler. Well, we tried the WRC one and the tailgate wasn’t strong enough to support it. Oddly enough the WRC team wasn’t willing to share one of their lightweight carbon fibre jobs, so for the time being we have this.

  17. And here’s the inside, complete with proper gearlever and handbrake, brace box for the co-driver and a grippy alcantara wheel. The whole centre console consists of just two buttons. One operates the on-board fire extinguishers, the other does the wipers.

  18. And here it is doing what a rally car was designed to do - muck around on dirt.

  19. This was the first shakedown and on the whole things went well. We had a small brake fluid leak through the handbrake and Ollie tweaked his driving position, but otherwise our i20 is ready to roll.

    This weekend sees its first proper outing, at the Woodpecker Stages rally near Ludlow in Shropshire. We’ll be back with a report at the start of next week.

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