Words|Photos by eGarage
Wikipedia defines an Entrepreneur as someone who is willing to help launch a new venture or enterprise and accept full responsibility for the outcome. Some are born to walk this line. They flourish under pressure. Making a commitment to risk it all – it’s an interesting dichotomy. With no interest in trying to put square pegs in square holes, the entrepreneur’s life is rarely smooth sailing.
Although the first couple decades of his career were dedicated to computers, Dennis Palatov eventually found himself drawn to his life-long passion of automotive design. The need to design a plastic enclosure for a laptop battery charger got him the first experience with mechanical 3D CAD and proved to be the first step on a very slippery slope.
Moving to Portland in 1998 was the point when Dennis decided to focus on his passion and become an entrepreneur. The culture and climate of the Pacific Northwest can be conducive to the entreprenurial pursuit. Away from the hustle and bustle yet surrounded by innovation and inspiration, the Bay Area, Portland, and Seattle continue to spawn great minds.
Living 15 minutes from PIR (Portland International Raceway), the country’s only city-owned racetrack, Dennis quickly found himself moving through a succession of track toys (documented on dpcars.net) and in the spring of 2002 it became clear that he had to design his own car. The idea was to get the most possible power in the smallest, lightest possible package and still be able to put it down. The specific goal was under 1,000 lbs and over 300 horsepower.
Fast forward ten years and one of Dennis’s first production models, the D4, is designed to make genuine race car performance accessible to trackday enthusiasts at a modest cost. It features advanced underbody aerodynamics, a long arm double wishbone suspension with pushrod activated coilover dampers and an optional all-wheel drive system. Power comes from a variety of motorcycle engines with typical configurations using 1.0L or 1.3L units of 175-200 hp. Typical weights are in the 800-900 lbs (360-410 kg) range resulting in exceptional performance.
The AWD system is unique in this weight class and allows the use of high power turbocharged engines of over 300 hp. In this configuration the car can have over 700 hp/ton power to weight ratio and still be able to put the power to the ground. The low weight and compact size enables towing the D4 to the track behind ordinary cars on a lightweight trailer. The D4 has been designed to enable easy operation by one person, without the need for support crew.
Despite its small size and light weight, the Palatov Motorsport D4 offers a very high level of safety to the driver. The frame is constructed of aircraft-grade chromoly (4130) steel tubing and complies with racing regulations for cars weighing up to 3 times as much. The driver’s feet are entirely behind the front wheels and suspension and the car has generous crush zones front, rear, and on the sides. Additionally, the driver is completely enclosed in a composite ‘Pod’ and further cushioned by a form-fitted BSS seat. Six-point race harness is standard.
By placing both the driver and the drivetrain in the middle of the chassis the Palatov layout facilitates effective underbody aerodynamics within very short wheelbase and overall dimensions. This ensures that both low speed mechanical grip and high speed aero-assisted grip are optimized. The very low polar moment of inertia inherent in the design results in agility that cannot be matched by a larger, more conventional car.
Being highly optimized for the track, the Palatov Motorsport D4 is not suitable for the street and there are no streetable options offered. Too bad, we at eGarage would love to cause a stir with one of Palatov’s little beasts on the street. Since we can’t, we’ll look forward to getting some track time when the weather stabilizes here in the pacific NW. Come springtime, you can be assured that we’ll be stretching the legs on one of these mighty minis and we’ll bring proper equipment to document the experience, as well as a couple fresh pairs of underwear.
For those of you in the Northwest, you can see the D4 up close and in person at Cantrell Motorsport. In the meantime, the rest of you can check out some of Dennis’s videos where you’ll see the D4 passing the likes of Ariel Atoms, Honda S2000s, and even Porsche Cup Cars as if they were stuck in neutral. We can’t wait to see Dennis accomplish his goal of raising the funds to compete in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb next year. With David Donner behind the wheel, we don’t see any reason why the D4 shouldn’t slaughter the records!
If you’re interested in learning more about his efforts and the Palatov Motorsport D4, go to – http://www.palatov.com/pikespeak/ – you can support his goal with as little as $25!