Hover Car Racer is Matthew Reilly's sixth novel, which focuses on the futuristic sports of hover car racing. It features Jason Chaser as the main protagonist.
Meet Jason Chaser, hover car racer. He's won himself a place at the International Race School, where racers either make it on to the Pro Circuit - or they crash and burn.
But he's an outsider. He's younger than the other racers. His car, the Argonaut, is older. And on top of that, someone doesn't want him to succeed at the School and will do anything to stop him.
Now Jason Chaser isn't just fighting for his place on the starting line, he's racing for his life.
14 year-old Jason Chaser is an independent hover car racer, who along with his autistic little brother - known as "the Bug" - are raised by their adopted parents Henry and Martha. Despite their younger age compared to most other young racers, the pair compete in regional races in their car, known as the Argonaut.
During a local championship, the Argonaut's tail-fin is damaged by debris from another racer's crash, and Jason is forced to steer through the use of the Argonaut's thrusters alone. Though they fail to win the race, Jason and the Bug are approached by the former professional racer Scott Syracuse, now representing the International Race School. Syracuse is impressed with both Jason's driving skills despite the damage and the Bug's plotted race course, and so offers them both places at the IRS for the next season.
Thus Jason and the Bug soon find themselves at the Race School in Hobart, Tasmania (which is privately owned by the school), along with some of the best student hover car racers in the world. After the opening assembly, Jason and the Bug are paired with the independent Mech Chief Sally McDuff, who will look after their equipment, including a machine nicknamed the "Tarantula" which performs most of the actual pit work, including changing the magneto drives which enable the hover cars to function, the compressed gas for steering, and the coolant to prevent the magneto drives from melting.
As soon as the racing season starts, Jason finds himself outclassed and bullied - both on and off the track - by other racers who consider him inferior. Among his rivals are Xavier Xonora, the extremely gifted Prince of Monsei; Barnaby Becker, Jason's nemesis from Halls Creek; and his own stable-mates under Syracuse's tutelage Isaiah Washington and Horatio Wong. Even the equipment seems to be against them as they and the only female racer at the school, Ariel Piper, suffer more than their fair share of faulty mag drives, substandard coolant, and viruses in the Tarantula. Indeed, during the first race of the school season, a virus in Ariel's car, the Pied Piper, almost causes her to fatally crash, surviving only thanks to Jason's intervention.
As the school approaches the middle of its season, Team Argonaut laments about its string of bad luck and failure to win any races which would qualify them for the mid-season Sponsors' Tournament. They confront Wernold Smythe of the Parts and Equipment Department about their mechanical issues, but he brushes them off. Soon the IRS is offered places for the top four racers of the year to take part in the Challenger Race of the New York Masters at the end of the year, so Team Argonaut aim to improve their game.With Race 25 being their last chance to enter the Sponsors' Tournament, Jason enacts risky tactics during the race to beat Xavier; first he follows Xavier into the shortcut mine after realising Smythe had been paid to map it out for the prince, and then skips a final pit-stop in order to achieve victory by a small margin. After succeeding, Jason manages to gain Syracuse's respect when he tells his teacher that he has learned from his mistakes and understands what victory in a race is.
Team Argonaut is now qualified for the Sponsors' Tournament, which is set to be a series of one-on-one match races which will be decided by the winner either finishing first or overlapping their opponent. However, Jason's first match will have him facing Ariel. Jason, the Bug, Sally and Henry attends a gala the night before the tournament, during which Syracuse introduces them to Umberto Lombardi, a billion owner of a private racing team. Though they pledged to remain friends despite the outcome of their match, Jason becomes disappointed in Ariel when he realises that Fabian, a ruthless, yet influential French Pro racer, has convinced her to use her body to gain his support for female racers in the pro leagues if she does well in the tournament.
The next day, Martha presents a team uniform for Jason, Bug and Sally just before their race against Ariel. After a full race which involves several chase phases on Ariel's part, Jason manages to beat her at the finish line. Through the rest of the tournament, Jason manages to best Washington, and beats Barnaby by default after his mech chief Guido Moralez is caught trying to sabotage their magneto drives on camera. After being defeated in the final round against Xavier, Jason is surprised when the crowd cheers for him more than Xavier, but realises it is a sign of respect for his harder-run series of races (whereas Xavier ran fewer laps in his previous races to defeat his opponents).
In the wake of the tournament, Lombardi offers Jason and his team the opportunity to participate in the third race of the "Grand Slam" Masters Series, the Italian Run, under his licence, which they eagerly accept. Xavier, having actually won the Sponsors' Tournament, has also been offered a place in the Italian Run with the Lockheed-Martin Factory team. As a result, both Jason and Xavier work to win the next few school races to secure their placings in the school ranking during their absence. As Fabian had dismissed Ariel following her loss in the first round, Jason rekindles his friendship with her.
In the days leading up to the Italian Run, Jason, Bug, Sally and the Chaser parents stay with Lombardi in his replicated city of Venice called Venice II. While preparing for the race in the Argonaut II, Jason meets Dido Emanuele, a beautiful Italian girl, and Ravi Gupta, a bookmaker who asks him odd questions. Also, Fabian challenges Jason to a circuit match for publicity, which Jason accepts. In the seconds before the match begins, however, Jason has Ariel take his place in the Argonaut, and upon defeating Fabian and revealing herself, Ariel publicly humiliates the French racer him for using her and dismissing all female racers.
During the Italian Run itself, Jason encounters trouble before the first pit stop when Etienne Troveau cuts him off and damages the Argonaut II, leading to him being left in last place. Luckily, thanks to Syracuse's knowledge of the track's shortcut, they are able to move back up into fifth place. Trouble occurs again when a sedan causes Sally's truck to crash, making her late to enable the team's second pit-stop, however Jason is soon able to reclaim the fifth position. Before he can cross the finish line however, the Argonaut II's tailfin spontaneously explodes, causing it to crash into the water of the Venice II canal. Jason narrowly manages to save the Bug from the doomed Argonaut-II when another car crashes into the wreckage, but is left unconscious for two days.
Jason's recovery begins with everyone holding high expectations of him after his heroic act and his efforts during the Italian Run, however Jason admits to Dido - whom he begins a tentative relationship with - his fears about racing. Back at the Race School, as the end of the racing season draws near, Barnaby, Wong and a few other racers begin playing dirty tricks on Jason during races to shatter his now-fragile confidence. Jason takes it upon himself to regain himself by training with drones, but when Sally and the Bug discover this, they admonish Jason for taking on the responsibility alone, pledging that they are a team who'll follow him anywhere. Thus with their help, Jason begins to rebuild his confidence, and rapidly rises up the school championship ladder.
Upon the end of the school's penultimate race, Jason, Ariel, Barnaby, Washington, Wong and Schumacher find themselves at a make-or-break for the final two invitation to the New York Challenger Race, as Xavier and Varishna Krishna have both earned enough points to keep themselves safe from the rest of the field. In order to get to New York, Jason realises he has to be beat Barnaby, and so begins strategising to beat him.
The night before Race 50, Jason overhears the IRS Principal Jean-Pierre LeClerq and Smythe discuss sabotaging Ariel's pit robot, revealing that they are they ones responsible for the earlier equipment misfortune in an attempt to get Ariel removed from the school, and Jason warns Ariel about the plot. During the race, Jason overtakes several of his rivals despite Xavier's attempts to ensure Barnaby's victory, and narrowly overtakes Xavier through the use of a few risky shortcut options. As Jason, Ariel, Barnaby and Varishna begin their final pit stop, the virus Smythe has sent to Ariel's pit machine encounters a firewall and instead disrupts the entire power grid, meaning that none of the pit robots work. All racers have to perform a manual pit stop, which ultimately gives Jason his chance to overtake Barnaby. Despite Barnaby's desperate kamikaze to keep from losing, the Bug manages to run over the finish line before Barnaby's car can recover.
Ariel, having won the race, gets the third invitation to the New York Challenger, Jason's victory over Barnaby allow him to reach fourth place and the final invitation. Investigations into the power grid shutting down reveal LeClerq and Smythe's machinations against Ariel throughout the year for the simple fact that they do not believe there is a place in pro racing for female racers, and they are sacked from the Race School as a result. Jason breaks up with Dido, having realised that she has been feeding Xavier and Barnaby information on him, including his fears and race strategies (he later learns that she is also Xavier's cousin).
Jason, Ariel, Xavier and Varishna head to New York to compete in the Challenger Race, the winner of which will have a chance to participate in the New York Master series itself. Before it begins, Xavier points out to Jason that he is the far superior racer in every respect; something Jason reluctantly agrees with. However, having reviewed all of Xavier's races, Jason formulates a strategy based on not only Xavier's actual superiority, but how he perceives himself as well; Xavier celebrates victory moments before the race is won. Jason uses this to surprise him with a late charge on the home straight and wins whilst Xavier is distracted already saluting the crowds.
Having won the right to participate in the New York Masters, Team Argonaut accept Lombardi's offer to let them race under his team's license once again, and Lombardi has the Argonaut given a full work-over. Though they narrowly survive the first race, the Bug's plan for the gate race ensures they continue on despite Fabian (who despises Jason for causing his earlier humiliation) and Troveau's efforts. During the third race of the New York Masters, Jason manages to win the race when, despite losing consciousness on the final turn, the Bug steers them over the finish line before Troveau can overtake them. As a result of the points they've earned from the three races, Jason, Fabian, Trovea and the world champion Alessandro Romba are left to participate in the final race together.
The night before the race, while the weight of what Team Argonaut has accomplished despite its rookie status sets in, Syracuse reassures them that they have proven themselves throughout the entire year as true racers.
The Quest Race takes place along a discontinued underground highway to Niagara Falls, where the racers must retrieve a trophy of their selection and return to the starting point in New York. During the race, Jason manages to avoid Fabian and Troveau's attempt to take him out, which instead results in Troveau crashing, and during the return journey Jason tricks Fabian into crashing into the wreck of Troveau's car, thus eliminating his French adversaries. On the final stretch, Jason pulls a slight lead against Romba, only for the Argonaut to suffer from another bout of sabotage, literally meters from the finish line, with the rear stabiliser wing destroyed by a tiny explosive charge. In a last, desperate maneuver, Jason uses his car's ejector seat to fire himself - and his steering wheel containing their car's transponder - across the finish line, thus winning the New York Masters.
As the crowd cheers for Team Argonaut, Romba shows himself to be quite different to most of the other pro racers, being not only magnanimous in defeat, but genuinely pleased for Jason. It is then revealed that Ravi Gupta, the bookmaker, is responsible for both acts of sabotage, having tried to ensure his bets would win (ironically, Martha has won $1500 dollars for betting on Jason to win the New York Masters). As Team Argonaut accept their victory, Lombardi gives Jason a full-time racing position with Team Lombardi.
Chaser Family / Team ArgonautEdit
- Jason Chaser: The main protagonist and aspiring hover car racer who drives the Argonaut.
- Bug Chaser: Jason's brother and navigator, who is shy and only speaks to Jason and Martha.
- Henry Chaser: The boys' adoptive father and hover car racing enthusiast.
- Martha Chaser: The boys' adoptive mother.
- Sally McDuff: The team's assigned mech chief from Scotland.
- Ariel Piper: The first girl racer to be accepted into racing school and Jason's friend. Driver of the Pied Piper.
- Xavier Xonora: The most talented driver at racing school and Jason's main rival. Driver of the Speed Razor.
- Oliver Koch: Xavier's efficient mech chief.
- Barnaby Becker: Jason's arrogant rival from Halls Creek. Driver of the Devil's Chariot.
- Guido Moralez: Barnaby's sly navigator.
- Varishna Krishna: The second best driver at the racing school. Driver of the Calcutta-IV.
- Horatio Wong: One of Jason's stablemates under Syracuse. Driver of the Little Tokyo.
- Isaiah Washington: One of Jason's stablemates under Syracuse. Driver of the Black Bullet.
- Joaquin Cortez: A reckless mid-range racer.
- Schumacher: Among the top students at the school. Driver of the Blue Lightning.
International Racing SchoolEdit
- Jean-Pierre LeClerq: The principal of the racing school who dislikes female racers.
- Scott Syracuse: A former hover car racer and Jason's tutor at the school.
- Zoroastro: The racing school's best teacher, and mentor to Xavier and Barnaby,
- Wernold Smythe: The manager of the Parts and Equipment Department.
- Stanislaus Calder: The school's racing director.
Masters Series RacersEdit
- Alessandro "La Bomba" Romba: The world's best hover car racer from Italy. Driver of the La Bomba.
- Fabian: A devious and egotistic racer from France. Drive of the Marseilles Falcon.
- Etienne Troveau: A racer from France and Fabien's ally. Driver of the Vizir.
- Pablo Riviera: The Lombardi team's other driver.
- Angus Carver: A racer for the US Air Force team.
- Dwayne Lewicki: A racer for the US Air Force team.
- Kamiko "Kamikaze" Ideki: A racer from Japan.
- Mark Skaife: A racer from Australia.
- Raul Hassan: A racer from America.
- Dan Rein: A racer from America.
- Au Chow: A racer from China.
- Helmut Reitze: A racer from Germany.
- Carlo Martinez: A racer from Central America.
- Brock Peters: A racer from Australia.
- Umberto Lombardi: The billionaire Lombardi team owner who supports Jason through the Masters series.
- Francis Xonora: The father of Xavier and King of Monsei.
- Dido Emanuele: Xavier's cousin who spies on Jason.
- Ravi Gupta: A bookmaker from India.
- Antony Nelson: The owner of the Lockheed-Martin Factory team.
- Markos Christos: A Greek racer from the European League.
- Praveen Chandra: A racer from the Indian Race School.
- Igor Krotsky: A Russian Racer, from the Russo-Chinese League
- Vladimir Krotsky: A Russian Racer from the Russo-Chinese League
- Zhang Lao: A Chinese Air Force Racer from the Russo-Chinese League.
- Edwardo: A racer from the Central & South American Race School.
The rights to produce a film adaption of Hover Car Racer currently belong to Disney. On January 11, 2012, it was reported that plans to make the film were going ahead, with the film to instead be titled Hovercar. The script is being worked on by Superman Returns writer Dan Harris.
- Hover Car Racer was initially an online serial that was released fortnightly before it was published by Pan MacMillon.