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.
Jason Chaser is an independent Hover Car racer, who along with his autistic little brother - known only as "the Bug" - are competing in regional races in their car, known as the Argonaut. Following a local derby, former professional racer Scott Syracuse, representing the International Race School is impressed with both Jason's driving skills (despite damage to the Argonaut placing them last) and the Bug's plotted race course mapping, and so offers them both places at the IRS for the next season.
The brothers accept, and Jason and the Bug find themselves in Tasmania (which is privately owned by the school) along with some of the best student hover car racers in the world. Jason and the Bug are paired with 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.
After the first few races, 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, an extremely gifted Prince from Monsei, Barnaby Becker, Jason's nemesis from Halls Creek, and his own stable-mates Isaiah Washington and Horatio Wong. Even the equipment seems to be against them as they and the only female racer 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.Soon the entire School is offered places for the top four racers of the season to take part in the New York Masters at the end of the year, so Team Argonaut aim to improve their game. In order to qualify for the mid-season Sponsors' Tournament, Jason attempts to beat Xavier by following him into the shortcut mine during Race 25, and risks skipping a final pit-stop in order to achieve victory. After succeeding, Jason manages to gain Syracuse's respect.
The night before the tournament, Syracuse introduces Jason and his team to Umberto Lombardi, a billion owner of a private racing team, and Ariel and Jason's friendship becomes tense when Ariel decides to use her body to keep in the good grace of Fabian, a ruthless, yet influential French Pro racer.
The next day, the boys' mother, Martha, presents a team uniform for them and Sally just before their first match. Jason's first match is against Ariel, and after a full race, he manages to beat her. When Fabian dismisses Ariel following this development, the two rekindle their friendship. 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. In the final round against Xavier, Jason only just loses, but the crowd cheers for him more than Xavier out 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.
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 him to a circuit match, however Jason has Ariel take his place, and by defeating him is able to publicly humiliate him for using her and dismissing all female racers.
During the Italian Run itself, Jason encounters trouble constantly, eventually leading to him being in last place. However thanks to Syracuse's knowledge of the track's shortcut, they are able to move up into fifth. A sedan causes Sally's truck to crash, making her late to enable the team's pit-stop, however Jason reclaims the fifth position. However before he can cross the finish line in Venice II, his tailfin spontaneously explodes, causing the Argonaut-II to crash into the water. Jason narrowly manages to save the Bug from the doomed Argonaut-II when another car hits 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, several other racers begin playing dirty tricks on him to shatter his fragile confidence, so Jason takes it upon himself to regain himself by training with drones. Eventually, and with the help of the Bug and Sally, Jason rebuilds his confidence, and rapidly rises up the school racing ladder.
Before the final race, Jason and Ariel, along with several other racers, find themselves at a make-or-break for the final two places to go to New York, as Xavier and Varishna Krishna have both earned enough points to keep themselves safe from the rest of the field, and Jason only has to be able to beat Barnaby.
The night before Race 50, Jason overhears Jean-Pierre LeClerq and Wernold Smythe (the Headmaster & Part Store's chief respectively) discussing sabotaging Ariel's pit robot, revealing them to have been responsible for her, and Jason's, earlier equipment misfortune. Jason warns Ariel, and the attempt to plant a virus on her pit robot backfires, instead disrupting the entire race power grid, meaning that none of the pit robots work. All racers have to perform a manual pit stop, and this puts Jason over Barnaby, who attempts to kamikaze Jason to keep from losing, but the Bug manages to run over the finish line before Barnaby's car can recover, earning the Chasers' the win.
Ariel, having won the race, gets the final place to New York, while LeClerq and Smythe are sacked from the Race School for their attempts against her throughout the year. 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 he is the far superior racer in every respect - something that Jason is forced to agree 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 before the race is won. Jason uses this to surprise him with a late charge and wins whilst Xavier is otherwise distracted already saluting the crowds whilst still on the home straight.
After teaming up with Lombardi's team once again so that they can officially participate in the New York Masters, Jason and the Bug slowly collect points, relying on luck as much as skill as they can. Their efforts are made more difficult by Fabian, who despises Jason after the earlier humiliation, and his team-mate Etienne Troveau. However, they and the world champion Alessandro Romba ultimately find themselves in the last race together.
After managing to trick Troveau and Fabian into crashing and eliminating themselves, 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. However, 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 championship.
Romba shows himself to be quite different to most of the other pro racers so far encountered, and is not only magnanimous in defeat, but genuinely pleased for Jason. It is then revealed that Ravi Gupta, the boomaker, 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 Master). 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 aspriring 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 relased fortnightly before it was published by Pan MacMillon.