No matter where you sit on the continuum of automotive and motorcycle enthusiasts, chances are excellent that you've seen at least one Suzuki Hayabusa engine-swapped creation by now. They're a popular choice, particularly for automotive applications looking for a compact, relatively lightweight and powerful engine.
Depending on your interests, you may also have seen a complete monster of a heavily modified Toyota Starlet tearing up international hillclimb competitions for the past several years. It's the pride and joy of Finnish engineer and racer Mikko Kataja and his shop, VHT Racing. Although it rose to fame while powered by a 4AGE Toyota engine, Kataja decided that a change was in order for the 2023 racing season.
The 2.6L Hayabusa V8 by Radical Precision Engineering, which currently powers the VHT Racing Toyota Starlet hillclimb racer
The 2.7L Hayabusa V8 by Radical Precision Engineering, with Cosworth pistons on the side, currently in the process of being perfected by VHT Racing
That's when he switched to a 2.6-liter Suzuki Hayabusa V8 built by Radical Precision Engineering. It's their Gen One model, though VHT Racing also has a second 2.7-liter Gen Two version in the shop that's being prepared as a future upgrade swap for the Starlet. That one will feature Cosworth high-compression pistons and puts out even more power. Both iterations are and will continue to be naturally aspirated.
Here's a closer look at the totally swoon-worthy ported Hayabusa heads that VHT Racing has been working on for the 2.7L upgraded version:
How Much Power Are We Talking?
In its current configuration, the VHT Racing Toyota Starlet V8 makes around 345 horsepower at 10,500 rpm. It's not yet clear how much power will be gained after they get done dialing in the 2.7L Gen Two Hayabusa V8, but Kataja estimates that 440 horsepower is distinctly within the realm of possibility.
Kataja Didn't Choose The Starlet Life; The Starlet Life Chose Him
Kataja, whose day job is spent solving engineering problems for customers as a project manager with Bosch Motorsport, has had the Toyota Starlet in his life for over two decades now. Way back in the year 2000, the then-engineering student purchased an inexpensive Toyota Starlet shell for a rally car project he was planning.
It wasn't in great shape, but when you have big dreams and more time than money on your hands, you're willing to do whatever it takes to make it work. As the Bosch Motorsport official magazine described it, "the car [became] his final thesis in the racecar mechanic studies."
He did rallying in the Starlet for a bit, before a rollover crash resulted in his parking it in his parent's garage for a few years. Eventually, he fixed it back up and started doing time attack racing. After moving to Germany for work, he and the Starlet began tackling the hillclimb discipline together, and the rest is history.
For a much deeper dive into the VHT Racing Toyota Starlet (including its latest Hayabusa V8-powered guise), Bosch ECUs, Finland's grand history of national motorsport passion, and more, be sure to check out this podcast with Kataja: