Mattis Karro one year on!

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For most people, turning 18 is a special event. All manner of doors now lie open, and all kinds of freedoms accumulate. The car licence becomes a reality. A copy of the house key gets thrusted into a clammy hand. The girlfriend gets the parental nod of approval, and life, in general, looks rosy. You will notice that we prefaced this literary masterpiece with the words “for most people”. Matiss Karro is not most people. At the age when most teenagers sprout their wings and start to fly, he has been an international motocross racer for a number of years. He had participated in his first motocross GP before he was 16 years old. He holds a junior world title, and in the course of travelling the world has ridden to top 10 results in a number of GP races.

Not the typical lebenslauf for an 18 year old, you may agree. However, the past is the past, and as soon as the new year festivities of 2009 were in the bag, His Curlyness got stuck into his preparations for the new season again. He opted to ride in the colours of the MVR-D Suzuki team, and seeing as the team is as English as a Tandoori Chicken dinner, British Championship races of all descriptions were naturally very much part of the calendar. Matiss started off with a bang at the first round of the British Under 21 championships, a series which is more competitive than the name might suggest. Matiss is not fazed in the best of company, and thus the season opener held no fear for him, which he promptly proved by charging to second in the overall result.

The “mini GP” of Hawkstone Park was next on the menu. This race traditionally provides one of the earliest opportunities in the season for GP riders to cross swords in preparation for world championship hostilities. The Latvian teenager again gave as good as he got and finished 6th against some very classy opposition. He was now riding on a wave of confidence, and despite a crash in the first heat of the British Championship season opener, he set matters right in the second race by riding to his first race podium in the British series.

The world championship season started off as a bit of a damp squib for Matiss. The first GP was held in Faenza, Italy, and there the squib, its container and all around were most decidedly damp as the race took place in weather conditions last recorded in biblical times. The muddy race was a bit of a lottery, and although he came very near to the points zone, Matiss left the first world championship event with a blank scorecard. His woes continued at the second GP in Bulgaria, when he tested the earth’s ability to withstand the impact of his shoulder. The earth won on that occasion, and the scorers remained untroubled by the young Latvian.

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Matiss was in for some Turkish delight as he finally scrambled onto the scorecard in Istanbul. His weekend in Turkey started off well when he qualified ninth, his best ever qualifying performance. He bagged a couple of 13th places in the races, for 12th overall on the day, and his world championship tally had begun. He left the exotic shores of Turkey and hightailed it back to England for the inaugural round of the Red Bull Pro Nationals series, where he collected some fine silverware by finishing second overall.

The young man must have felt robbed when he crashed in the second heat of the Dutch GP at Valkenswaard whilst lying in sixth position with a mere two laps remaining. This would have gifted him the second top 10 overall GP result of his short career, but unfortunately it was not to be on this occasion. His Karrpe Diem day in England came at the second round of the British championships. He pulled the pin like a special forces member invading a small country, and quite simply disappeared into the distance in both races to comprehensively claim his first ever overall victory in the series. This hoisted him up to second in the championship standings, and suddenly, those doubting souls who sniggered when team manager Mark Chamberlain stated that his rider was a championship candidate, were forced to swallow their smirks.

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If Matiss could wipe the Iberian peninsula off his Google map, he might very well be tempted to do so. The region did him absolutely no favours in 2009. In Portugal, an ankle injury took him out of action before the starting gate had even fallen, and in Spain the week thereafter, he crashed heavily, injuring his thumb and consigning himself to the couch for the next month or so. He arguably rushed his return to the track a bit too much to defend his second position at the next round of British Championship series, but it was nevertheless a decent exercise in damage control, with a few more points added to his tally, although he dropped quite a way down the leaderboard in the process.

The injury was still not fully healed by the time the GP circus swung round to Riga in Latvia. Matiss was well and truly bummed out by this, since he would have liked nothing more than to produce a scintillating performance in front of his home crowd. Apart from the fact that the thumb was still tender, he was also not quite up to full race fitness yet, but he is not known as a little terrier for nothing, and despite his discomfort, he raced to 13th and 12th in the races respectively, giving his home fans some cause for cheer at least with another handful of world championship points. The highlight of the season came one week later at the Swedish GP in Uddevalla. Matiss rubbed elbows with some of the world’s top riders during the course of the two races. Although his lack of race rhythm cost him some positions, he still bagged very respectable eighth place finishes in both heats for seventh overall, matching his career best GP result to date.

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He returned to the Red Bull series with a bang after having missed one round, and again booked himself a spot on the podium with second overall. At the final round of the series, he was on the receiving end of the bang when a rock reared up, somehow navigated its way through the opening in his helmet, and hit him smack on the lip. The sew-up job performed at the nearest hospital would not have looked out of place on a Gucci handbag, but Matiss was not a picture of happiness, as he did not score a single point on the day. Teammate Carl Nunn brought the title home for the team, however, and was magnanimous enough to share his champagne with his younger teammate.

Matiss fulfilled a lifelong dream during the season when he got the opportunity to participate in a round of the US AMA national championships. He arrived in Steel City a day before hte race, with the jet lag still clinging to him like ants to a jam-covered picnic blanket. He overcame the unfamiliar surroundings, bike and opposition to qualify for the race with ease, and after a first race that can best be described as a learning curve, he mixed it up with some of America’s top riders in the second race to finish sixteenth, placing himself in the AMA scoreboard as well.

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Matiss finished his domestic season with the same kind of bang that he started. Thoroughly miffed at being excluded from the result of the first heat of the final British Championship race at Landrake, he was in no mood for taking prisoners, and he scorched to a convincing victory in the final heat of the series. He rounded his season off by helping his country qualify and finish 13th in the Motocross of Nations, and as the sun set on the 2010 season and the tracks were rolled up and put in storage for winter, he could reflect on a season that offered much in the way of disappointment, but also a good number of highlights.

Matiss is already in full preparation mode for the 2010 season, having tested the new fuel-injected 250cc Suzuki. He feels himself at home with the British team, and bacon and eggs, bangers and mash, rugby and cricket are now an integral part of his life, and he speaks the vernacular like a true local. It is no wonder then that he has become a favourite of the British crowds, and it will be a sizeable following that will urge him on to championship glory in 2010.

Images by Ray Chuss

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