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Hayabusa-powered superkart

2010-06-07 07:27

The holy grail of karts – Palatov’s DP4. Boys and grown men are sure to be equally enamoured by it.

Where Los Angeles is brash and New York frantic, the placid Pacific Northwest is not an area within the geographic vastness of the United States of America where one would expect to find offbeat engineering excellence.

There are exceptions though. Since 2002, Dennis Palatov has been fabricating some of the most outlandish cars imaginable from his Portland-based Palatov motorsport workshop.

Cueing his design inspiration very much from the minimalist British school of performance car design, Palatov has previously transplanted a Harley-Davidson hybrid V8 into an Ariel Atom and now has built what is surely every boy’s dream toy – the DP4 superkart.

Very small

Palatov’s DP4 looks very much like a miniaturised classic endurance racer or Can-Am car. Dimensionally it’s 2.63m nose-to-tail, 1.14m from the top of the roll-hoop to where the slick tyres make contact with asphalt and 1.7m flank-to-flank.

In classic racecar fashion the DP4 wraps aerodynamically refined composite surfacing over a tubular steel frame. Despite its Lilliputian dimensions it remains a fearsomely focused trackday machine.

Potential owners can vary the DP4’s scant ground clearance between 52- and 25mm, depending on the level of ground effects aerodynamics specified from Palatov’s team. Suspending the 13-inch slick-shod alloys at each wheel corner are double-wishbones regulated by Ohlins fully adjustable inboard dampers.

Fore and aft overhangs are practically non-existent. Six-spoke alloys are 13-inchers, roll 200/20 Hoosier slicks for optimal grip.

Rather rapid

Powering Palatov’s (very) rapid superkarts are a selection of Suzuki motorcycle engines, mounted transversally next to the driver. Transmissions are all six-speed manual without reverse, in true motorcycle fashion. Options range from 44kW 600cc in-line fours, to the 150kW 1 400cc Hayabusa engines boosted by forced induction.

Most buyers are expected to tick the 1 000cc engine box, which sees Palatov employing Suzuki’s Gixxer R engine in either wet or dry-sump configuration. With the DP4 weighing only 363kg, performance is best described as ballistic.

The superkart’s stock drive configuration is via a Quaife limited-slip rear differential, though Palatov recommends the all-wheel drive set-up. This more traction secure all-wheel drive option sports a centre differential servicing front- and rear limited-slip differentials via a chain-drive. It’s technically impressive stuff.

Keeping Palatov’s little bit of Portland madness generally tracking in the intended direction at speed is a 35/65 rear-wheel biased torque split (on the all-wheel drive DP4s) and 260mm brake rotors all round.

The superkart is not a cheap indulgence though. Prices start at $27 000 and run close to $50 000 for a serious hillclimb machine with the full suite of go-faster bits.

All things considered it looks absolutely awesome though – and of course there is something fundamentally endearing about something so small yet massively fast.

Palatov recently took the DP4 to the Oregon Raceway Park for a public shakedown session to celebrate the project's completion. A potential buyer probably summarised the DP4's performance billing best after five laps behind the wheel. "Going from the DP4 back to (a) Caterham CSR is like going from the Caterham to a stock Elise."

The DP4 appears to be a compelling alternative to the usual superbike powered trackday car offerings - which have until now all been of British origin.


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