Three times Australian Top Fuel Motorcycle Champion, Chris Matheson and his Nitro Voodoo Team are set to raise the bar in the Australian Pro-Series Top Bike Championship in 2013.
Matheson has re written history in Top Fuel Bike racing in Australia, after entering the sport only three years ago. Matheson won the Championship in his Rookie year, broke numerous records then backed it up in his second year.
Matheson then went on to win his three from three Championships, wrapping up the 2012 season in emphatic style by wining all 15 races throughout the entire season, top qualifying, with lowest ET and top mile per hour in nearly every race meeting.
Matheson finished the year on a high taking out the coveted Australian Fuchs Winternationals, top qualifying with a PB at over 224 MPH in the final pass of the season.
Despite the unequalled success, Matheson is far from done in Top Bike racing, as he has a goal to be the first in Australian to break in to the 5 second zone over the quarter mile.
The Nitro Voodoo Team hold the current Australian lowest ET record at 6.058, recorded at Willowbank in 2010.
Matheson said “we have been chasing Championship points and trying to learn how to ride and tune the bike over the past three seasons in readiness to now focus on more mile per hour and ultimately lowering our ET.
“We have been consistently quick from day one running in the 6.1-6.2 range, which has enabled us to amass points in the Championship chase, winning races and learning the whole bike deal along the way.
“When I originally purchased the bike from Larry Spiderman McBride, 10 times World Champion Top Fuel Motorcycle legend and quickest man over the quarter, McBride said to me at the time it will take a while for you to get comfortable on the bike and to get a handle on the way the bike performs down the track, hell I have been doing this for 32 years, it isn’t easy!”
Matheson continued “People who say it is easy, have never experienced anything with the explosive power of Fuel Motorcycle. There are only a small handful of people world wide who ride these beasts consistently in the high 5 low 6 second zone. Each time you get on these machines you are putting not only your own life, but the guy in the other lanes life on the line each pass.
“McBride drilled it into me from the start, don’t ride the bike if you are scared of it, respect it, hell yes, if you don’t, it is like a junk yard dog, he will bite you, it’s just a matter of when and how god dam hard”.
Matheson knows the pain of the junk yard dog, as he felt the bite in only his second race crashing at over 370kph after glancing the wall at Sydney Dragway in 2010, suffering injuries that he is reminded of each day.
Matheson has never had a fear of the bike only a very healthy respect of what it can do. That respect is highlighted in the amount of time spent servicing, testing and maintaining the bike away from the track to ensure our time racing is exactly 100% focused on racing.
“We have no desire in chasing problems at the track that can be dealt with in the workshop. Sure, unforeseen problems arise when we race, however, they are rare and we deal with them quickly, he said.
“To be successful in our sport you need to be well prepared, efficient, good at what you do and smart about your approach as a team to racing. I stress all the Team, one weak link at a Group 1 level on these machines is, has and will always be catastrophic. Over the past three years of racing, I have learnt a lot, however, still learn every day, from smart people around me both at and away from the track.
Matheson has faith in the future direction ANDRA is taking the sport.
“ANDRA has begun the unenviable task of rebuilding our much loved sport from its hay days here in Australia, I stress our sport in the sense that the fans, tracks and competitors all need to be involved to ensure the sport grows.
“Last season saw new tracks, formats come into the fold, next season, Top Bike have 9 rounds of racing all around Australia, which is a huge commitment for all concerned, but one we will take with open arms.
“The foundations Greg Humphries, former CEO ANDRA, laid in his short time was instrumental in taking the sport to the next level and regain its position in Australian Motorsport. The new calendar for 2012-2013 will see new tracks and will give the public the opportunity to see the ANDRA showcase for the best racers Australia wide.
“Let’s hope we get more Nitro Fuel Bikes into the fields to ensure the future of our bracket back to the over subscribed fields only some three years ago. Bigger fields will attract more racers and fans alike and as important, sponsors wanting to be involved. The direct competition will also produce quicker and faster results as we all push closer to the limits.”
The off season is no time to relax for the Nitro Voodoo team.
“Nitro Voodoo haven’t been idle since the Winternationals, we have completely stripped the bike checking every wire, nut, bolt, weld, air line, front to back and over again. We replace virtually everything as per our service log, regardless of appearance as we adhere to a strict preventative maintenance program to ensure safety and consistent results,” he said.
“To ensure reliability over the nine round format, we are looking at potentially 56 passes under race conditions and a further 20 runs during R&D / Testing. It’s likely we will do nearly as many runs this season as we have done since bringing the bike to Australia some three seasons ago.
“These numbers excite the hell out of both myself and the Team, as track time is experience, which relates to performance and reliability. We already have a great track record for both, however, we can improve in everything we do, to get a better outcome.
It will be a hectic start to the extended new season.
“November this year is the first round which will be the Australian Nationals at Sydney Dragway. We then head to Calder in Victoria, then Perth for the third round, all in a month, we will also run testing at the Goldenstates, at the Plex, in that month which will give us 4 rounds or potentially 30 runs. As I say, this is great news to gain valuable experience especially riding the bike,” he said.
“Reaction times, steering the bike, tune ups, servicing and generally being in race mode, as crew Chief Roger Bloor calls it, are all very important targets.
“This intensity is only there under race conditions, testing is great, don’t get me wrong, but you don’t have the pressure from other riders and Teams, or quick turnaround time between runs. Pressure is limited to pushing yourself to try new setups at the test session. The hype at race time is palpable and is what gets the adrenalin valve to free up, then, as soon as the crew fires the bike at the start line, the adrenalin valve gets smashed open, no different to the throttle at the hit.
“At the end of the pass the guy who was staring you down at the start line is usually back to being a mate as we congratulate each other after surviving another run, all part of the fun.
The team cannot wait to finish the off season maintenance and fire up their machine in anger once again to chase new goals.
“As I said earlier, we are keen to get back on the bike and aim to do so in the coming weeks to improve a couple of things especially our early incrementals, which have slowed in the second half of last season. The results at the recent Fuchs Winternationals was a great result but, deep down we were hoping to re-set the National record of 6.05 we set back in 2010 at Willowbank. Never the less, we will sort it and be on our game for round one in Sydney in November later this year,” he said.
Matheson believes the last season had been a good one especially for himself as he felt much more comfortable on the bike, which has been reflected in his increase in MPH gains, since they resolved the front end problems, which plagued them for the last season and the first half of 2012.
“The bike used to be a big handful in the braking zone and despite our efforts it was not getting any better! That’s now resolved and the bike is a bike again not a runaway bull from the middle of the Northern Territory,” he said.
“At the Winters we ran five 6.2 second passes in a row, then a 6.3 in the semi and a 6.15 in the final against Chris Porter who punched out a solid 6.9. We ran a chute as we mostly do on the bike, but did not use it as we haven’t been pushing out big MPH.
“Despite stopping well short of the sand pit in the final pass against Porter, hitting just over 224 MPH on the finish line, our data after the run indicated we hit over 240MPH at the shut off, just pass the 1000ft marker. This indicates what potential is still in the bike, when we get more confidence and have the opportunity to really test the chute.
The bike has run as quick as 5.8 in the States and at the time was the quickest in the world. That record has only been bettered by the master himself, Larry “Spiderman” McBride, punching a 5.74 at almost 250 MPH.
“I recall McBride said to me the first time I jumped on the bike in America “shut it off when you have had enough, dead hero’s have limited use,” he said.
“Larry is right, I have no death wish, only to improve at the sport and enjoy myself with good friends along the way.
“Oh and crack a 5!