HomeFeatures & ColumnsChris Matheson : I was Lucky

Chris Matheson : I was Lucky

We talk to Top Fuel Motorcycle ride Chis Matheson following this wild ride at the 2013 Nitro Champs
Story by John Baremans – Photos by Peter Colburn

 

I WAS LUCKY

 

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

Fresh off his stunning performance at Willowbank a few weeks earlier, where the Nitro Voodoo bike not only recorded the quickest and fastest run in Australian Top Bike history – 6.04 seconds at 241 mph, but moved Matheson into the all-time Top 10 ET list, and the fifth fastest in the world.

The Nitro Champs was a pivotal race for the team, as they needed to grab as many points as possible so to reclaim the points lead. They were also on the hunt to break into the magical five-second zone, something they have been chasing all season.

Matheson top qualified with a 6.078 ET and he took a win in the first round of eliminations with a 6.098 run.

But it was in the semi finals where it all turned pear shaped as Matheson found out the hard way, coming off his bike at over 230 mph!

JB: Lets start off with the fact that Chris Porter was leading the championship coming into the Nitro Champs. You had just come off Willowbank running your best ever numbers both in ET and Speed. So you must have felt pretty pumped about that, but you would well be aware that it only takes a spinning rear tyre or a good wobble for you to lose a race so was there any pressure knowing that you had to do well in Sydney and at the same time chase an even quicker ET than Willowbank

CM: The Extreme 3 exhibition we did at Willowbank saw us make a total of 8 runs over the 2 days. It was not about championship points, however, purely putting on a good show for the fans, but more importantly it gave us an opportunity to try and improve our ET and MPH. So when we went to Sydney we had a good tune-up and every opportunity to try and better our track record and long story short, we have really been chasing a five overthe last couple of rounds, because it’s high on our agenda.

At Willowbank, it was eight passes, but some came with a tight turnaround, in less than an hour. The Santo race was running on a new format, they had the fuel cars and a huge crowd. There was a real buzz about the place as were we. We had just one thing in mind and that was to run some numbers. Every pass we did was over 200mph and a few went 230 and then we hit the 241, which was significant worldwide. Mile per hour doesn’t win races and I’ve been vocal about that but it was a huge step for us and for Top Fuel bike racing in Australia to get up on those numbers, which borders on the fastest outside of America and the fifth fastest in the World. That was a big thing for the team and gave us confidence

That bike has never done that kind of speed in its history. When Jimmy Brantley owned it under the Hulk banner its mph was up there. Its ET was stronger, but the speed wasn’t there. It hit home that the bike was 100 percent straight and the whole handling package we got with the bike from a chassis and set-up point of view is as good as the McBrides and the like world wide. 241.8 on an Australian track on a bike is a big thing and gave us a huge lift.

We have been chasing our early incrementals in the last year or so which has actually taken our ET away. Our second half of the track is world beating. That second last run at Willowbank we put on well over 65 mph in the second half of the track which is a huge amount of speed, whilst most bikes are tailing off at half track. We went slow in the first pass in over 4 seconds, which for us is slow and under 200 mph. Our history has been 205 – 210 to half track so the second half is killer.

So we went to Sydney chasing our first half numbers knowing that our second half was awesome.

JB: What is more important for you and the team at the moment – winning or chasing ET.

CM: Winning is extremely important for us, but it’s never win at all costs. Safety is always No.1 and never caution to the wind. We won three championships on the trot coming into the sport from a zero base but I guess the ultimate goal in drag racing, whether it be Super Street, Fuel cars or Junior Dragsters is ET and that’s what Drag Racing is all about. It’s taken me two to three years to really get a handle on the bike and be 100 percent confident. We had a handling issue there for some time so was shutting off well before the finish line. If you look back at some of my first race on the bike at Willowbank about three seasons ago we punched out some 6.20s to 6.30’s at the first event and won that first meet and here we are three years later down the track we have picked up a couple of tenths and the bike is consistently in the 6.0s but we are still two tenths off where we want to be. In America where the run off is a lot longer than what it is here, however, there is still no reason why we shouldn’t be into the fives. This last season we have been chasing the fives, I’m a lot more confident on the bike, we solved the handling issue and now it’s like it’s on rails, even when its ugly and slippery its still gas open and ride through it and grin and bear it because you know it will sort itself out and settle down.

When we went to Sydney, I’m probably jumping ahead a bit here, I jotted some notes down on some of the earlier squiggly runs.

So, even though we are two tenths off no one has been where we have been on a motorcycle in Australia. You do get blasé with what we have achieved and when you look back at the stats what we have done over the last three years. We went over a season without being beaten, we didn’t run a round in Perth because we were broken and then we went to Adelaide, which we won and then we crashed in Sydney. We have had some unbelievable fast consistent results literally from day one. I think we have only been beaten twice in a final in nearly four years. It’s easy to lose sight of what we have been doing and sometimes you have to sit down and trawl through some of results.

In the last few meetings we have absolutely been chasing the ET trying to be the first ones to crack into the fives outside of the Southern Hemisphere, and in saying that we also chase the championships so we are mindful in what we are doing strategically from round to round knowing full well that if you do the rounds you get the points then the tally becomes the stepping stone towards another championship.

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

JB: You could almost say that this season being behind the eight ball creates more interest and determination for you and the team especially now that you wont be racing at the Winternationals.

CM: I think we are about 30 points ahead of Chris (Porter) and Graeme Morell is knocking on our door. Hopefully Chris will do well at the Winters which I’m sure he will and he will bag 80 or 100 points which will be a big lead to try and catch. At the moment in the calendar we have only got Darwin in the Northern Territory in August and then back down to the crash zone in Sydney in November for the final round of the season so we only have two rounds to try. The bike will be right and I need to get back on the mend pretty quickly so I can get on and ride it . As much as I wanted to,it was physically impossible for me to ride at the Winters because I cant stand on my leg for six weeks. Certainly for Darwin it will provide a good break between June and August for us to regroup and put some things together and go up there fully fit and get stuck into the rest of the competitors in the bracket.

JB: That’s now your second big crash on that bike correct?

CM: Had an off in my first season, actually it was my second race. We won the Willowbank round before I think in 2009. Left there on a confident positive note and came to Sydney for the Nitro Champs.

Kim Stevens won it over Jay Upton in the final and
knocked me out in the semis. On the last qualifier on
Saturday night it was a late one. We split an oil line on
the engine and it sprayed oil onto the back tyre at the
finish line and spat me into the wall. Bounced along
the wall and by the time I gathered it up I had run out
of room to to stop so crashed into the sand pit and
did a couple of barrel rolls. My crew chief and team
did an all nighter fixing the bike. I went back to the
hotel. I can always remember Roger Bloor my crew
chief saying to me that everyone was saying that’s it
I’ll never get on the bike again. He said to me around
11.30 that night after I had been given a check over
by the ambo and got back to the pits. said what do
you want to do. I noticed that the rest of the guys
were packing up the truck as if we were going home.
I said if you can fix it I will be back here at 7am in
the morning. I’ll have an early night and we’ll race
tomorrow. In typical Roger Bloor fashion yep, no
problem. So the guys got stuck into it and Brian from
Redline Oils, one of our sponsors was very helpful in
also doing an all nighter. So I went back to the hotel
pretty sad and sorry. Struggled to get out of bed in
the morning was pretty black and blue, but we got on
and went on win the first shake down. The bike was
perfect. On the second round I got out first and shut
off early about ¾ track and Kim Stevens flew past me
in the deep end and to his credit he won and went
on to win the meeting. I will always remember the
smile on his face and his crew guys. It was a good
weekend.

So yeah I’ve now had a couple of incidents in
Sydney now. I’ve crash in the left lane and now in the
right. So I’m running out of places to crash (laughing)
in Sydney.

JB: Does it actually give a higher sense of
respect for the bike or what you do. Has it
changed things.

CM: No it hasn’t. When I was introduced to Top
Fuel motorcycle by Larry McBride in the States I
can always remember him saying, this is a loaded
gun to your head. You need to show the upmost
respect because they can kill you and more selfishly
kill someone else. That has always been burned into
my harddrive from day one. When you ride these
things you can understand exactly what he means.
My respect has never changed and one thing I have
learnt is that if you fear them then you shouldn’t be
on them. Its like an armed robber holding a gun at
you, you need to show them a bit of respect because
he’s the one with the power. When you lie on these
things you’ve got to have absolutley 100 percent trust
in the guys that have had spanners on it half an hour
ago, you have to have trust in the competitor in the
other lane, have faith in the track and hope that all the
moons are aligned because when you go, there is no
half go, its 100 percent on the gas and you are totally
commited. If you are not then you will have a problem
so yeah the respect for the bike is a big thing and
having an off like I just had is part of the deal. If you
have a hesitation sitting in the staging lanes before
a run it would be best to go back to the truck and
take up knitting (laughing) because you shouldn’t be
there. They are too dangerous if you are to 99 percent
committed, it has to be 100% or nothing. And the big
thing with me and I know it’s the same with any of the
guys and girls jumping into things that are quick is
sitting in the staging lanes wondering if the guys have
done up the sump plug or tightened the chain and
the right tyre pressure or too aggressive at mid track
and smoke the tyre. If you have any of those thoughts
inside your head you should unhook yourself and
walk away because just that little bit of doubt
creeps in anywhere what sane person would get on
something with 1500 horsepower and goes 400ks in
six seconds. It sounds insane but we are definitely
not insane. We take every possible precaution from
the first spanner on the bike to the last slap on the
back before you are sent into the battle.

 

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo


JB: If Roger says the track is dewy or our lane
has just had oil. Does he ask or tell you what you want to do?

CM: I guess we are a little different in Roger and
myself in our procedures before we run. After we
have serviced the bike Roger will go up to the start
line about 30 minutes before we run and he will
watch very closely in both lanes, what’s happening
out there. He will watch the wind sock down the end
of the track to see what the cross breeze is doing.
Traditionally, when we arrive at the track, the whole
team walk the full length for both lanes all the way
to the sand. I touch the sand and throw a handful of
sand into the air. It’s something that we always do.
We know every little bump, every little imperfection
or whether it good or bad or indifferent or what the
crosswinds are doing or where they are coming in
from and seeing where the grandstand/hills end
which is often the case with some tracks as you have
a protected alley until the end of the grandstands and
then its open and if there is a cross wind you have
to be really prepared because you are going to cop
it and when you do I’m on the back wheel doing 200
plus so you need to be mindful. So as I said Roger
will go up early and watch and you will see who’s
going quick and which lane and watching what the
cars and bikes are doing and then I’ll come down.

My guys say I get there too early but I also like
to get there and watch the other guys run. Get my
brain into gear and watch the lights so I can get my
reaction times as good as I can then Roger and I will
meet when we are getting close and get together
and I will stand in front of him where Roger will pick
a groove in our lane. He will pick the right or left lane
if we have the choice and then have a bit of a chat
and he might say to me it might get loose 300 feet
out because everyone is moving around or because
in the engine tune up we might be putting more
power in at a certain point for example if it’s a little bit
slippery a little way out we would take power out of it
so we can get through that part of the track without
smoking the tyre and then apply a whole lot more
horsepower to try and pick up what we lost. He will
tell me its going to come up here or its going to do
that or be careful because it could step out and as I
have said before we keep a pretty close eye on the
wind sock at the other end of the track. If it’s very
gusty I will often go down on the quad bike to that
part of the track before the run and just sit there and
have a bit of a look to see what’s going on so that
I am aware of. We may if it’s a left or right we may
aim a little more in the other direction knowing full
well that when I get to that point it will blow us in the
other direction. While it seems like a wide track at
that speed a slight wobbly or crosswind can move
you right across both lanes and put you into the wall.
I’ve had a few close ones because of that. Perth is
notorious when the Fremantle wind doctor comes
in, in the evenings and some of the winds we have
ridden into to have been pretty big. So yeah there is
a lot of prep that goes in before each run not only on
the bike but the crew chief is very much thinking of
what can or can’t, will or won’t happen and then once
you go its part of that confidence thing you know that
you have done everything you can possibly do to get
in a quick and safe run.


JB: I’ve noticed that you have changed your
routine a bit because in the past you would
always try to get in some track time before a big
event and get any bugs sorted out.

CM: When we have had the opportunity in the
week leading up to an event we try to make sure that
I am on the bike at least once a month to stay at the
peak of performance not only for me but for all the
team so we are right on the game with our servicing
and our staging and burnouts, our set up and all that
sort of things. I guess we are still doing our regular
passes but in the case of Sydney we didn’t do the
Wednesday leading up the race because we now
have enough data on Sydney and all the other tracks
so we are not chasing data as much as we were
but I think more importantly we are confident within
ourselves that we will perform well in the qualifying
which will roll us into the next day. To us its all about doing rounds, which it always has been, but the main
difference I have a lot more confidence now and it
makes a big difference to the whole team. They do
there job and we all try as best as we can. If something
happens its not for want of trying.

JB: Lets talk about the run. On some of the
earlier runs it was noticed that the bike had the
wobbles and was completely loose on some
occasions in both lanes.

CM: It can be a number of reasons. If we backtrack
to Adelaide it’s a good place to start. Whilst it was only
1000 foot, the track was hot and it was very difficult to
get traction so we were smoking the tyre on a couple
of runs the entire run which there is not much you
can really do. We de-tuned the bike as much as we
possibly could to minimize that. If you take out 500
horsepower we still have 1000 at the rear so its difficult
to hook up and that’s pretty much consistent with all
the tracks. At Willowbank I’ve had a few squirrely runs
which is a combination of track conditions, the ambient
temp, when the night rolls in particulary around this
time of the year leading up to winter in Queensland
you will get the dew coming in which will put a slight
amount of water on the track and often its not like that
the whole length of the track because throughout the
day you will get shadows and then the effect of the sun
will heat some lanes more than other lanes. You might
go from a warm sticky spot in the sun to a cold part
that is in the shade and blows the tyre off. Or it can just
be tune up related. If the bike doesn’t get up on the
tyre the way it should do it can squirm around because
the tyre is actually cupping in the centre and not
getting the full width on the ground. Trying to put 1500
horsepower on 400mm of rubber where as it should be
a lot more than that. Other reasons can be not sitting
on the bike flat and steer them flat on the pegs, which
is how we ride them, the minute you lift one side of the
tyre you only have 50 percent traction and the fact that
the bike is not dead right angle to the track it changes
conditions and can move the bike around.

The big issue with the squirming around is that
with these bikes, there is only one way they can be
ridden. They are not designed like a circuit bike. They
are designed for maximum horsepower, through the
chassis to the tyre. Its open wide, lift the front tyre at
the hit and put all the power to the back tyre and with
the aid of the wheelie bars keeping it down. When you
go you are fully committed its 100 percent power on
the green, half on half off. So it’s 1500 horsepower, at
4G’s, at the hit. We are doing 200 mph to half-track but
if they start to move around for the number of reasons
you can’t get off them while that’s happening because
these bikes are designed to be steered under full
power. So the minute you shut it off you actually lose
a hell of a lot of control because if it comes down left
when you are wobbling it will only go further left when
it comes down. I think the first time I had to get off in
Sydney was because it was on a bad course. I’ve had
plenty of runs when its moved all around your lane but
you just have to grit your teeth because you sort of
know what to expect. So you stay on the power and it
will eventually come out of it and settle down. You can
pop down and ride it out and then it becomes a good
run. One of the passes I did in Sydney in qualifying
when we broke the crank, I got off it at about 700 or 800 feet because it was a bit violent and something
inside me said that this isn’t going to come out. I was
mindful of where I was attempting to get off the gas
that I was in the middle of the left and right wobble so
to speak so that when I shut off it came down I knew
I was going to cop about 3gs in the opposite direction
and you want to be sure that it comes down straight
and not pointing in the wall and it did exactly that and
I shut off at the right moment then got straight on it
again and the result was a broken crank shaft and the
shock was too much. The tyre was hooked up, it was in
direct drive and it was just too much and snapped the
crank and rolled to the finish. So they are very unique
in how you ride them. The foot pegs play a big part
because if you want to go right you can’t lean like a
conventional bike, you have to push on the left peg. It’s
a big commitment because when you hit the gas you
are 100 percent committed for the full run and if you
don’t you just won’t get the results and even worse you
could have an accident.

The other big issue with these bikes is that they
are not conventional in the stopping area. We have a
parachute on board to help wash off speed but the
minute you shut them off, a complete shut off you need
to wait for a split second bearing in mind that at 380ks
you are covering an enormous amount of distance and
the track is limited in length so you really need to time
what you are doing in the breaking zone to perfection
otherwise you can run out of track or step off them
so the minute you shut it off you need to let them
settle down and because you are virtually flying at that
speed, the wheel is up in the air. The minute you shut it
off the front wheel comes down on the front shocks, so
you let it settle, still keeping your head and as much of
your body behind the fairing because at those speeds
the wind (hense the story) can blow you off.


JB: On Q1 you went 7.11 at 148 mph but did
some damage.

CM: Yes that was the run we did some damage and
the bike got squiggly and broke the crank when I got
off and on again. Ordinarily I would not have got back
on the gas because I know it can do a lot of damage to
engine and gearbox going from 1500 hp, to zero, then
back to 1500. But we are chasing numbers here.
When you are that far down the track you are in
direct drive as the clutch plays no further part in the run
so if you get back on, it’s like 1500 horsepower through
metal and a tyre. The track was sticky so when I got
back on it hooked up, reared up and tore up the end of
the crank off. Which I guess is what you would expect
to happen.

JB: So did you cop a razzing from the boys

CM: (laughing) When Bruce came down to pick me
up he asked how was that? I replied oh not too bad. Is
everything alright it seemed ok (more laughing). Bruce
will never have an expression on his face and would
make a great card player. I usually have a pretty good
idea on how the bike went but when I watch him come
down on the quad he already knows because he saw
the times on the scoreboard. But they will always ask
me to download what, how and why after each run
and as Larry McBride said they want to know where
you were on the track at all times not only from a safety point of view but also give accurate feedback
because if your data logger fails you know you can
only stick your finger in the air because that’s how
racing was done. People have gone quick before
without data loggers so we are mindful that if we
loose a data logger on a weekend we don’t pack up
just because the computer doesn’t work we come
back and I will say it was soft to half track and then it
came back on strong towards the end and adjust the
tune to suit.

So when I came back into the pits Roger and had
a debrief and said how did it feel. I replied and said
I shouldn’t have got back on etc and I reckon I’ve
snapped a crank. Bruce looked up with absolute
disgust then put a wrench on one end of the crank
and turned it around but the other side wasn’t on the
primary side. We carry a few spare motors because
you have to expect that when you run nitro. The boys
then threw another one in and we were ready to go in
about 20 minutes.

JB: Q2 saw a 6.07 at 226

CM: Yep that was a little wiggly in the beginning
and then settled down and I put the head down and
on the gas to the finish line so it was a good solid
run. The ET was good because that was as quick as
anyone has gone on two-wheels in Sydney. We held
it a few times and I think the last time was a 6.111.
But she spun the tyre almost the entire run.

JB: Your third qualifier was 6.29

CM: It turned the tyre even more for the entire
run and we damaged another engine as a result and
suspected a damaged blower as well. It was run
later than scheduled and the track had gone off a bit. We finished about 2am while Roger had an all
nighter. Normally at the end of qualifying we have
a big service which included the engine, gearbox,
clutch, full chassis check so because we had a few
extra things to do it was a longer night than normal.
We hit the beds while Roger stayed and then when
we got back at 8am he was just putting the finishing
touches and then we all got in to get ready for the
first eliminator.

JB: For the first round you had Nev Smith but
he had problems and crossed the centerline while
you backed up the strip record with a 6.09 at 215.
Did you button off early?

CM: Yes I did just before the finish line. We were
in the left lane. I knew I had gone far enough for us
to do what we had to do. The data showed that it
slipped the tyre but I got off before the finish line.

JB: Then we move into your semi final bye run
which we know was very ugly and nasty. Were you
still running the same engine from the previous
round.

CM: Yes we had the same engine in as it was
fine. My reaction times (.106) are never brilliant and
that’s why Chris (Porter) always wins the bet. I think
he owns a Lamington Shop because we have a bet
on our reaction time and he smashes me just about
every time (laughing).

The 60 foot ET was 1.081 which is slow for where
we should be and that’s were have been chasing
incrementals. We have run sub ones on that bike,
shutting off early and still running 6.20s at 180
mph. Ridiculous stuff. Our current 60s have all been around 1.07s to 1.10s which is tough to be able to
get into the fives. Whatever you do in the first half is
multiplied by three down the other end. We have set
the bar high from day one and to our competitors
that’s quick, but to us we are chasing the 1.0s
because that way you don’t have to do huge mph
down the other end to get a low ET. If we are in the
1.0s we’d be running a high five at low 200 mph. I
think our best 60 was a .998 at Willowbank. The first
season I was riding we were doing 174mph, shutting
of at half track and still running in the 20s. That’s
insane. A few times I did 208 and shut off at 700 feet
on one run and still clocked a 6.058. It was like 210 at
half and 180 at the stripe. We are trying to get back
to those incrementals and looking at the clutch area.

Our top end speeds are better than Korry Hogan in
the USA when he did the 250 and 255! It’s better than
any of Larry’s top end. Even he just can’t understand
how big we are in the second half. But if we weren’t
big in the second half we’d be running 6.30s and
6.40s. So if we got back into the low 1.0s we would
be in the high 5.70s and running around 220. That’s
why the first half is very sensitive. You have to get out
and hook up and go. We are not really moving to past
100 feet so we have a shorter race track. It will come
back and when that happens people will be shaking
there heads. People worldwide that have seen
our incrementals, such as Larry, when he saw the
numbers up on the internet from the Santos Extreme
event he was on the phone say what the %$%#@
are you doing. That’s incredible top end and you are
running 0s. He’s doing 225 at 6.0s! I believe that if we
had our front bit worked out we probably would have
run 20 five-second passes. In the early days we had
a handling issue that was suicide if you attempted to
run it out the back door which we have been doing
this season. We have a bug in the clutch and we
are getting close with it. That bike when I got it had
never been out the back door. Jimmy never had to
go all the way because it was very quick. I think he
ran about 25 fives all around the 230 mph zone and
shutting off at 1000feet. Its got heaps of potential
and Larry laughed and told me that he was keen
to see the bike leave the country because he knew
what was in that bike because he had built it and
set it up. When Larry had a stroke and was out for a
season that’s when Jimmy won the championship.
Larry crewed on the bike with his brother Steve
and they were horrified at the bikes potential.
Jimmy ran his fives and had some fun, survived
and then retired. We have run fast too and had
a lot of fun but haven’t run fast enough so I’m
not retiring (laughing).

Back to the run……

We had the bye run but we would never take
the green light and back out. We always go
there to race and put on a show for the crowd.
The team put the best tune-up in it and the
guys had done everything normal. Everything
was good and ready to go.

The bike was a little lazy off the line (1.128
60ft) and moved around a little bit with a
slipping tyre as it had done for most of the
weekend. Not lifting the throttle, the bike took
off and I buttoned down and tucked myself in
which isn’t always easy when you are the size
of a double door fridge. I was behind the nose
cone and I knew it had some speed because
my peripheral vision was picking up everything
that I knew of the track as I was going past it at
over 200 mph

It was all normal and I had picked up second
gear after around 2.5 seconds. I had gone
3.999 at 194 mph at the eighth mile clocks so it
was head down and hang on.

At the three-quarter mark I knew it had some
speed because you could feel the pressure and
the vision of everything flashing by. Then I shut
it off just before the finish line and I reached
down with my left hand, as we run a typical
motorcycle set up with the rear brakes on the
left and the front on the right. So after I shut
it off I let the bike settle. Eighty percent of the
braking is via the rear wheel and then as we
wash off speed I apply the front brake. I was
mindful of a bump in that lane and ordinarily
apply the brake after it but I was also mindful
that the speed was up so I was keen to grab
the brake and let it settle down. Just at the
time I released my fingers to do that, I hit a
bump, the handle bar slapped my hand and
lifted my fingers up into the air which is pretty
much the same as holding your hand outside a
car window at 100kph. At that speed you can
move your hand up and down pretty much but
when you multiple that by three and some. I
think we went through the finish line at 370ks
so you would have a good idea what happened
next.

We certainly had plenty of speed on board.
So my fingers popped up which became
my hand, then my arm, which then became
my body and I was blown off the bike . I can
remember the first words I said to myself
– I’m off the bike and then concrete, wall,
sky, asphalt and my last vision was the bike
disappear into the distance without me. I
thought this isn’t good.

It then came to a stop and I tried to get
up. When I was first lying on my back I was
wiggling fingers, toes and legs etc to see if
they were still working. Then I was keen to get
my visor up and get some fresh air in. Then
the next minute the fire crew and the ambos
turned up.

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

As for the bike, even though the kill switch
was activated the engine was silent but the
bike was not breaking so it had plenty of speed and was as straight as an arrow. So no speed
was washed off before it reached the sand. I
was later told by some of the bottom end crew
that when it hit the sand it just parted the sand
like a high-speed powerboat on water. It just
continued on through the sand, through the
catch net and by the time it hit the tyre wall, the
front end was ripped off as it is designed too
and was catapulted over a steel fence landing
up on the side of the hillside. It would have still
have been doing 300ks when it hit the barriers
and you have to remember that it’s a 1000lb
of bike.

It was then dragged up the hill onto a tilt tray
and taken to an inspection shed for ANDRA
officials to look at it.

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

As for myself I was taken to hospital. I was
very lucky to get away with burns and some
scrapes however my ankle was banged up
and required a few screws and plates which
obviously meant that I would not be able to run
the Harley at the Winternationals.

There was a lot of talk that the bike was
finished and a right off but even if that was the
case (which it wasn’t) then I would have rebuilt
it in a better condition than before and if I
stopped riding the bike it will go into a museum
either here or the States. When I saw Roger in
the meat wagon I said how does the bike look
as he must have seen it from a distance and
noticed the front wheel wasn’t where it should
have been. It was in a neighbours farm or front
yard. He said the bike isn’t good. But when
they looked at it the next morning they came
up to the hospital and said they had a better
look at it and said that it wasn’t too bad. The
front came off like it should do and there was
hardly a mark on it from the front wheel back.

As for the chute, it’s there if I need it as
an extra, extra safety precaution but I was
fortunate enough that the chute wasn’t out
on that run otherwise I could have gone for a
ride through the sand pit. You can just imagine
being tangled in the chute at 370k and looking
at the back wheel thinking here comes the
sand, here comes the net, the tyres. Get the picture”

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

THE SAFETY GEAR

One of the major differences between a car and a motorcycle is the amount of protection surrounding the driver or rider. Most high performance vehicles are built with roll bars but the choice for those who ride on two-wheels – well lets say there is nothing except the body armor they wear.

The type of crash that Chris Matheson had is a perfect scenario because he was blown off the bike at hi-speed and tumbled down the track with nothing but his leathers, helmet, gloves and boots. Such was the speed at which Matheson was sliding and tumbling, that for those who saw the footage on the internet, yes that was smoke coming off the leathers.

Chris Matheson 2013 crash Nitro voodoo

For Matheson he did receive a number of burns, with the worst one being near is left shoulder blade leaving a few holes in his jacket and his right forearm.

The leathers used are Vanson, which are specific to Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing. Matheson had a local guy, who operates as Hi-Side, to add some extra re-enforcement and padding. Matho also had some extra work down to his pants around the inside of his legs as they do get knocked around a bit during those six-second passes.

Helmet is Simpson, which comes with a fire rated neck sock that basically seals off any air coming in and blurring his vision.

FOOTNOTE: Matheson wished to thank everyone who enquired and sent well wishes to him and also to the safety crew and ambos for doing an outstanding job. Also to Chris Porter from Frazer Motorcycles/Bad Bones Racing for taking time off and bringing the bike back to Queensland.


About Dragster Austrailia

In March 1979 David Cook Publishing started a magazine title called Dragster Australia; it was a fortnightly newspaper magazine based around Australian Drag Racing and sold for 50 cents a copy.

Things started out a little slow but by year’s end Dragster Australia was considered by Drag Racers and Drag Racing fans Australia wide as “The Drag Racers Bible”. The Magazine then morphed to become a 56 page quarto black & white publication, but then alas, Drag Racing suffered a decline nationally with the closure of Dragstrips in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

In 2002 Geoff & Denise Crisp purchased Dragster Australia Magazine from David Cook Publishing and with the onset of the opening of the new Western Sydney International Dragway proceeded to invest over One Hundred Thousand Dollars into new equipment to keep Dragster Australia in the winners circle. A major part of that investment was going to a full colour A4 size 56 page publication.

In March 2009 Dragster Australia will celebrate 30 years of publishing the “The Drag Racers Bible” and apart from a couple of holidays we have never missed an issue, in fact by March 2009 when the 30 year anniversary will be celebrated we will have published over 775 issues, that’s a lot of Drag racing.

So as you continue on the Drag Racing journey remember you only need one thing. Dragster Australia Magazine, available every fortnight from your newsagent, just ask for “The Drag Racers Bible”.

Dragsteraustralia.com.au

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