In 1997 Jay Upton surprised the drag racing world by announcing his return to Top Fuel Motorcycle racing, by leaving many race fans and fellow racers jaws on the floor, with his radically designed top fuel motorcycle. The plan was to create a bike that would cover the quarter mile in five seconds while protecting the rider from the elements. Two decades later, Upton is making his return to championship drag racing in the 400 Thunder series.
Upton is a racer who has just about done it all, competing with the best riders in America on a tour that took him across the United States in 2004/2005 which included running at drag racing’s mecca Indianapolis Raceway Park. He returned to Australia and collected more trophies and added his name to the history books with numerous championships before a crash at Sydney Dragway in May 2009 almost ended his racing career. Jay was on the right track with his goals of achieving a five-second pass by running a 6.17 on his at-the-time brand new chassis at his local track the Perth Motorplex before the accident.
Upton wasn’t just making inroads in 2009. “In 2004 we had run 6.19, and in 2007 ran quick enough in the first half to run in the 5s with the previous four-valve configuration, and since then we have run many short laps that should have or would have resulted in a 5-second lap. The 6.19 had only 183mph terminal speed, and we have run over 200mph at half track several times (best of 205.91),” grinned Upton. Jay would bounce back and return to his previous chassis running a personal best 6.113 and continued racing until he stepped back from racing to focus on work commitments in 2011.
Recently Upton has returned to the race track making test runs at the Perth Motorplex. In March, the bike dubbed “The Edge” returned to competition for the first time since the 2011 Western Nationals.
The bike is still a way off from where the team would like it to be, but they are quickly closing in on the goal of running a 5-second run with the direct drive set up. “During the time off we have made changes to help the motor run cooler in the second half of the track and are achieving that. We are working steadily toward the 5s, once again with many changes to clutch, tires and the motor,” smiled Jay.
He will return to full-time competition beginning with the first round of the 400 Thunder championship this weekend at the Nitro Up North event in Darwin. “Darwin in winter will provide excellent conditions for fast racing, and we look forward to consolidating our reliability more than aiming at Australia’s first five. It hasn’t escaped our notice that the Nitro Voodoo team and bike is starting to work their way back to the performances of its USA hay-days, and no doubt all eyes will be on the matchup that almost certainly will occur at the Nitro Up North event.”