Test Drive Tuesday review: 2010 Palatov D4 & 2011 Palatov D1
What is the perfect track-day toy? The answer probably differs following one’s vision of recreational track time. For Dennis Palatov, a track-day toy has to be light, small, but can’t make any compromise on power or aerodynamics. In 2002, Palatov stopped dreaming about his perfect track car, and started actually making it.
The D1, first prototype designed by Palatov, housed a big old V8 in the middle of a small tubular chassis, transmitting power through all four wheels, while this rocket ship was helped by underbody aerodynamics. Later, the D4, based around the same concept but with a 4-cylinder motorcycle engine and RWD as standard would become the first production car of the American company. Slaying everything at trackdays, the D4 showed its full potential in 2012 at Pikes Peak, winning the Unlimited class.
There is a very good reason for the Palatovs unconventional looks: weight. The D4 weighs as little as 700 lbs, and that’s the key point of it all. Being this light, it doesn’t take much to turn it into a missile. 197 bhp are more than enough, but Palatov says that with the addition of an AWD system, the D4 could handle up to 700 bhp. Which sounds absolutely insane, given how the 430 bhp D1 performs.
Aerodynamics really play a role too, and looking at the huge diffuser it’s easy to see why. Coupled with the featherweight stature of the Palatovs, this makes for mind-blowing cornering speeds, and also, which is probably more important, an ease of use that its very short wheelbase and mad power-to-weight ratio would never suggest.
But while they might look very similar, you don’t drive the D1 and the D4 in the same way.
Being RWD only and lighter, the D4 feels more transparent. Take one or two laps to get the feel for the playful rear axle, and you won’t have to think about it again. Actually, you won’t have to think about anything again: the car is so telepathic, it’ll do what you want it to before you even have to ask. You really are at one with the D4. Braking is powerful, acceleration breathtaking, but this is not a car so fast it’s scary. And because it’s so small, racing a full field of these at, say, Zandvoort is one of the best thing you can do in Simraceway. There’s a definitive go-kart feeling with the D4. Only better. I wish everyone would buy it, so I could race it every day.
The D1, meanwhile, is a different beast. It’s more than twice as powerful, has four-wheel-drive, and as a side-effect is a bit heavier. As a result, it’s a less intuitive car. It has a bit of understeer that you have to fight with vigorous throttle jabs, but in the other hand the rear end will never snap at you. But you always have the feeling that you have to work around the understeer, rather than work with the car as you would with the D4. It’s still a very enjoyable car, and drifting it through slow corners is very, very entertaining. And it’s a very cool thing to race too. Plus it’s cheaper, being a Progression Ladder car.
But in the end, I’d rather have the D4. It’s just a purer, more direct car that will give you unrivalled thrills each time you take it to a track. I love this thing to bits.
Here is the link to the Test Drive Tuesday Leaderboards: https://goo.gl/ATr6mF