Australia’s newest carmaker is nothing like Ford, Holden or Toyota.

    There is not a single sign of a full-sized family car.

    Instead, Racing Cars International in Melbourne has created a high-tech weekend speed machine called the HyperRacer X1.

    Already a hit in Australia, the $100,000 pocket rockets are now growing in demand in Britain and the USA.

    “We’ve built 20 cars and we’ve got 38 orders in total. We’re expecting more orders soon from the UK and the ’States,” HyperCar creator, Jon Crooke, told CarExpert.

    “We’ve been blown away by the response. The market in the ’states could be huge. They are talking about 100 cars. It seems to have a lot of momentum.”

    The X1 will never be a road car, but it’s ideal for weekend track days for keen drivers and there is also a racing series in Victoria – soon to go national – for competitive X1 owners.

    The car looks basic but, thanks to a 1.3-litre Suzuki Hayabusa engine producing 130kW and a weight of just 400kg, it can lap tracks faster than a V8 Supercar.

    The HyperCar team, Jon and his son Dean Crooke, claim the car will sprint to 100km/h in around 2.5 seconds, can hit 200km/h in 8.0 seconds, and has a top speed of 230km/h. It also has has 200kg of ‘ground effect’ downforce from its wings and underbody venturi.

    Supercars racer Cam Waters has lapped the X1 at the Winton track in rural Victoria and undercut the V8 Supercars lap record by nearly three seconds with a time of 1 minutes 16.77 seconds.

    The X1 project has been in the works for more than a decade, after Crooke Snr – a member of Peter Brock’s Bathurst driver line-up in the 1980s – invented and built one of the world’s first racing car simulators. There was also a failed attempt to import the radical Ariel Atom road car into Australia.

    There was another car, the ProRacer, but it was mostly a springboard into the X1. Around 20 were sold.

    “We made over 1000 of our Hyper Stimulator simulators. We did 100 alone for Intel and another 200 for Castrol. It was big at the time,” said Crooke.

    The simulator had a Formula 1-style wooden chassis, which the driver sat in, and there were almost endless livery choices.

    But the Crookes were both craving an affordable weekend getaway machine and their work has resulted in the X1.

    “It’s mostly a hobby car for older guys who have made some money. We’ve got guys who have never raced at all. A lot are coming out of motocross,” said Jon. “Our youngest owner is 18 and the oldest is 73.”

    One big attraction is the car’s arrive-and-drive ability, as an X1 can be towed on a small trailer and requires almost zero mechanical work thanks to its Suzuki engine and six-speed gearbox.

    “It has super-easy maintenance. It’s usually just wash and race. There is a totally fixed specification, even down to the nuts and bolts,” said Dean.

    “We’ve got incredible reliability. We just do track days and races, day after day.”

    That’s mostly down to the research and development program. It began in 2017, although there were COVID delays.

    “The car ran for the first time in April 2019. January 2021 was our first customer delivery,” said Dean.

    Those customers are paying $100,000, with set-up costs made easier because the car is small and light.

    “That’s ready to race, painted and stickered. We’ve got one guy has towed his car behind a Holden Astra.”

    Looking forward, the Crooke crew are pushing into new builds with a line-up of tube-frame chassis ready for the next production run at their Lilydale factory, and waiting for the next overseas orders.

    “We have five full-time staff and another five contracts. We’re even doing our own side-intrusion protection, the only company in Australia, as we have around 200 kilos of driver protection in the cars,” said Dean.

    “We’re outsourcing a lot of stuff to Australian suppliers. It takes about 500 to 550 hours to build a car, once we have all the parts.”

    The target is an annual production of 50 cars, although that could rise dramatically if the interest in the USA turns into a solid order bank.

    “Over half of the cars were sold in the last six months. It’s just exploding,” said Jon Crooke.

    Paul Gover

    Paul Gover is one of the most experienced and respected motoring journalists in Australia. After more than 40 years on the automotive beat there is nothing he has not done, yet he still brings the enthusiasm of a rookie. He has worked in print, digital, radio, television and for every major publisher in the country. He is also a national motor racing champion and once co-drove with Peter Brock at Bathurst.

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