It’s not every day you step into the fastest race car you’ll likely ever take a ride in. Just ask NZV8 photographer Croy, who claims the Juno race car to be one of only two cars to have ever scared him.
His ride came recently, when we were invited to the launch of a truly special piece of race car engineering — the Synergy V8-powered Juno Racing vehicle. UK-derived and brought to New Zealand by UK-born Taupo resident Chris Hold, the Juno first popped up on the radar in late 2008. Originally powered by a 2.0-litre engine from late-model Honda Civics and tuned to create around 250hp, the Juno competed in a couple of local races.
However, director Chris says, “After originally wanting Hondas, I realised the Kiwi love for V8s.” Too right.
It just so happened that Chris crossed paths with Simon Longdill, a mechanical engineer who designed and built the Synergy V8 platform back in 2005. As a fellow engineer, Chris looked at the computer designs and needed no more convincing. A deal was struck, and Simon got to work piecing together the 2.4-litre Synergy V8. Built using two Kawasaki ZX-1200 motorbike heads, the Synergy produces a wild 400hp at 11000rpm. Taking into consideration that the Juno Racing chassis tips the scales at around the 600kg mark, the numbers start to get serious.
We weren’t there to be dazzled by the numbers, though. We were there to see how Juno and Synergy met in the middle.
Suffice to say, there is very limited room inside the Juno Racing vehicle for a passenger. It’s essentially designed with one occupant in mind, but a second person can fit in — even one who is 1.93 metres tall. Strapped in and sitting ready alongside Porsche racer Jono Lester — who was sharing driving duties with ex-A1GP pilot Jonny Reid — we headed out of pit lane.
We hadn’t even made it through the first corner and already the combination of Synergy V8 and Juno chassis started to show its worth — and we were still on cold tyres. Barely making it around a handful of corners, I could already tell I had been in nothing like it before, and would probalby never go in anything like it again.
As we hit the first straight and Jono really stood on the pedal, I was pinned into my seat. We hadn’t even got to the long back straight.
Heat eventually soaked through the tyres and Jono began to display the true potential of the car. Never before had I seen someone that involved in the drive. Around every corner Jono fought off slight oversteer with a centimetre or two of opposite lock, squaring up the steering to get the appropriate amount of side bite into the front tyres before getting back on the pedal and sending the car straight to the next bend. Not only was it a lesson in how the Juno went, it was a lesson in what it takes to be a top-level race car driver. Forget about my reaction times, Jono had the problem solved before I could even think about the solution.
After three laps, we rolled back into the pits and I had an appreciation (and smile) I could not shake.
Just how fast is this thing? We were recording lap times in the 1.26 range around the full Taupo Motorsport Park track and, with just two dry laps at Pukekohe Park Raceway under its belt, a 54.3-second lap has already been recorded. That’s how fast.
Possibly the most amazing part is the fact that anyone can get their hands on one of these amazing race cars — Chris has brought 10 of them into the country, with a view to setting up a series once they’re all under private ownership. While they are all currently fitted with the FD2 Honda engine, that can be easily switched to the astounding Synergy V8 platform.
The cars are available in three different options, with prices varying accordingly: outright purchase, purchase with maintenance contract, or a package where all you do is turn up to the track and your car is there waiting for you — just the thing for the lazy racer like me.
If you’ve ever thought about getting behind the wheel of one of the fastest race cars in the country, this is probably your best way to go about it.
Words: Gray Lynskey Photos: Adam Croy / Fred