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Rotax DD2 Track Test - Does It Live Up To The Hype?

There is no point beating around the bush. I think the Rotax MAX is one of the worst engines ever put on kart. From the look, to the sound, through to the power delivery, everything about that engine I dislike. So can the DD2 rescue Rotax's reputation as a legendary kart engine builder?

Several years ago Rotax developed the 2-geared RM-1 kart and hailed it as 'New Age', and 'The Future'. But, after a couple of relatively unsuccessful years for RM-1, Rotax decided to re-energize the RM-1 project and allow different manufacturers to produce karts for their previously one chassis make class. Rotax renamed their new class DD2.

 

 

 

The DD2 engine is basically a 33hp 2-geared kart with a couple of cool unique features. The engine is directly attached to the axle, so there is no need for a chain, which I have to say, is pretty neat engineering. Rotax claim that because of some mechanical wizardry (that's beyond me!) in the event of a bent axle, the engine won't be damaged. Another feature is the actual gear levers, which are situated on the wheel itself and are operated by the thumb. I am not sure that this positioning is what you would call 'user friendly' (I'll talk more about that later).

Walker Rracing - UK importer of Arrow Karts - kindly allowed me to test their Arrow DD2. Before the test, I had heard rumors flying around which speculated that the DD2 is as quick as an ICC. This would make it nearly as fast as an Aixro XR50. I have to say I was very doubtful, even though I had seen the DD2 look very fast in tests. In reality, I would say on the same tyres, it’s nearer FA 100cc pace than an ICC and the awesome Aixro XR50.

Here's the video, click the image to play

 


Watch the DD2 video without commentary at the bottom of this page (for those who like to hear the motor!)


I must admit having two gears is a little odd, and at times I was reaching for a third, and a fourth gear (that's what happens when you play computer games with a steering wheel too much). The power in first gear is really good. It's not brutal like you might expect. It's a little forgiving, but there is definitely some serious grunt there. Once you click into second gear there isn't the same pure full on power you get in first gear. The engine doesn't pull quite so impressively as say something like the Aixro. The actual top end is pretty good. But getting there sometimes feels like a little struggle depending on gearing. Once you get in the flow though, with the two gears, it is enjoyable. It is fast, and if I had more time to set the gearing how I would like, I am sure it could go quicker. Overall, the straight-line speed of a DD2 is very good, but truthfully, it isn't Aixro fast.

 

 

The engine has balance gears, just like the Rotax MAX. Even though they do improve reliability, the lack of vibration from the engine does take something away from the driving experience for me. You just don't get the same feedback from the motor like you would a 100cc, or 125cc gearbox. For want of a better word, it makes the engine feel a little soft and detached. But if you like long-life engines the DD2 fits that criteria..

The engine pretty much sounds like a MAX with two gears. The exhaust produces slightly more presence than the MAX one but it doesn't really get the adrenalin flowing like a screaming 100cc 2-stroke. That is understandable though, as long engine life is a priority for Rotax, and it seems, the karting world

 

 

Overall the actual driving experience was good fun. There was power there underneath your foot when you wanted it, unlike a MAX where it feels like an eternity for the powervalve to kick in. The DD2 is a little heavy, but it is a vast improvement over the MAX in terms of the driving experience and fun factor.

The one major problem that I found with the DD2, and Rotax design, is the ill thought out paddle shifts. You have to take your hand off the wheel, use your thumb, and push down hard to make sure that the gear goes in. This is really awkward to do. A simple re-think on how to change gear is needed. Just flipping them over, and making them a little easier to get to would be a simple enough change – F1 styley - and it would make it much more fun to drive.

 

 

Evaluating the handling was very difficult indeed. In fact, I committed a serious Bandicrime. I was running on a deflated left rear tire at around 4-5psi. The Arrow DD2 chassis I was testing felt like it had some potential to handle superbly. It turned left really well, but right handers weren't so easy.

With constant claims from Rotax that the DD2 is the 'Revolution in Karting', 'The Future', and 'New Age' I would admit that the Rotax marketing machine is impressive. Although I don't think it quite lives up to the tags Rotax brand it with, the DD2 does bring some really cool new ideas to the table, and they all do their job pretty well and don't feel too 'gimmicky'. However, costing around £4300+Vat it is directly competing with ICC's, and Wankel karts.Although the DD2 doesn't produce the same kind of insane performance that the ICC and Wankel karts deliver, it certainly out performs a Rotax Max, and is definately worth a look at if you are a MAX driver looking for some more pace and excitement.

Alan Dove

Get a Rotax DD2 from Walker Racing's Website

Discuss the DD2 report on the karting1 forum

 

Karting1.co.uk test the Rotax DD2/Arrow.