October 27, 2018: Heading into next weekends East Coast Thunder championship drag racing event at Sydney Dragway, five-time Top Bike champ Chris Matheson finds himself in a somewhat uncomfortable position.
Following the opening Darwin round in July, Perth’s Jay Upton picked up 116 points for the win, while Matheson, the reigning champ, sits in second place on 84 points!
“Am I worried? Nah it’s early days,” grinned Matheson. We have plenty of rounds ahead of us in the 2018/19 400 Thunder season, so anything can still happen.
“It was great to line up with Jay again in Darwin. I love any competition as it only makes me, and the “Nitro Voodoo” crew work harder.
“Yep the pressure is on, but that’s ok! We are prepared for Sydney and ready to give it our best shot,” said Matheson.
“We had a forgettable weekend in Darwin. It started well when we qualified No.1 with a 6.24 ET, resetting our previous 6.26-second Hidden Valley track record. However come race day, we struggled to get the power to the ground!
“We ended up smoking the rear tyre in the final giving the win to Jay, who cruised through with a 6.5-second pass.”
Despite the loss, the “Nitro Voodoo” team have a baseline to work with heading into Sydney!
Since his return home, Matheson has spent the past months focusing on some lingering injuries trying to regain his full strength after a fairly busy last season.
Matheson went on, “The break has given us time to further develop the bike to try and improve on its performance.
“The bike has enormous potential, along with proven reliability, however, we are not seeing the ET results we are looking for. We are focusing on a couple of ideas around fuel delivery and hope it will help us improve our increments for Sydney.
“We stripped the bike and rebuilt it from top to bottom, along with its powerplants, transmission and clutch systems. We have enough spares and equipment to see us through the current 2018/19 season, and are set to hit the ground running”, said Matheson.
“We love coming to Sydney. You could almost say it’s our second home track and has provided us with plenty of highs and lows. Yes, it can be tricky, but we’ve had many wins and run some really good numbers. We currently hold the track record with a 6.078 ET set back in 2009, so hopefully, we can nudge that lower again. The speed mark held by Athol Williams is currently 238.51 mph (383.83 kph) so it would be very cool to grab that as well,” said Matheson.
“It’s great to see the East Coast Thunder event shaping up to have a strong nitro field including Jay, Gavin Spann, the return of Chris Porter on his Harley, along with local Adam Layton to entertain the Sydney fuel bike fans.
“Top Bike is seeing a bit of a resurgence, said Matheson. It’s showing signs that in the near future we could see up to four nitro-burning 4-cylinder motorcycles on the track. Include that with some strong nitrous bikes and new nitro Harley-Davidson machines, the potential is there to see eight bikes or more at future 400 Thunder championship rounds.”
Something else that Matheson is passionate about is helping out those who have been doing it tough. He acknowledged the devastating drought and the troublesome plight the farmers and their families are enduring across Australia.
“On my trip to Darwin in the “Nitro Voodoo” transporter, I really saw the impact first hand.
“I know the rural community is a resilient bunch who are all too often the unsung heroes of the country, said Matheson. We’ve had some good rains along the east coast of Australia, however, it’s still not enough as we approach the summer months. I hope the rains return quickly.
As a result, Matheson said that if he is fortunate to win and stand on the podium come race day at the East Coast Thunder, he will donate his prize money to the rural community.
“I am aware that Sydney Dragway has a “Racing For Our Farmers” campaign, so if I win, that is where my prize money will go. After all, every little bit helps.
“I’m looking forward to getting back on the track and meeting our fantastic drag racing fans. The weather forecast is predicting good conditions making this meeting one you don’t want to miss!
Top Bike action is scheduled to kick off with qualifying on Friday, November 2nd, with three sessions – 1:51 pm, 4:29 pm and 7:21 pm. Saturday sees Rd 1 eliminations kicking off on 3:22 pm.
For more event info go to http://www.sydneydragway.com.au/events/east-coast-thunder-2nd-3rd-november-2018/
Photos by Grant Stephens (top) and Dave Reid