“Yes but I want to win!!” The Skype instant message stared accusingly at me from the screen. This after your humble reporter had dared to suggest to Matiss Karro that as a newcomer to the MX1 class in the British Championships, any result in the top group would count as good. The Latvian was quick to strike a cautionary note – with a motocross steelbeard such as Kevin Strijbos in the class, there was no easy ride in the offing, but his intention was clear – the goal was winning, nothing less.
Matiss had certainly enjoyed a strong run up till now in the season, but this was the nitty gritty – the real championship hunt, second in importance only to the world championship series. Doncaster’s FatCat Motoparc would host the action, and seeing as it would be the team’s closest outing for the year, they could at least luxuriate in the thought of minimal travel before the racing action could start.
The sandy track was still flat and relatively unchallenging when the weekend’s activities kicked off with the qualifying sessions. Matiss finished seventh and eighth in the qualifying – and superpole sessions respectively, not a situation likely to render him entirely gleeful, but he, as much as anyone, realizes that the points are awarded for racing, not qualifying, and he girded his proverbial loins for the battle ahead.
The Steve Turner Racing KTM 350 may give 100cc away in capacity to most of the opposition, but absolutely nothing in sniping efficiency, and Matiss charged into the first race in second position, right behind Strijbos. For a few laps, he kept the Belgian in check, but the latter gradually worked himself free from the pursuit and opened up a gap. A few mistakes by Matiss also did his cause no good at all, and he focused on salvaging his second position. A minor technical gremlin made its appearance late in the race though, when the rear binders on his bike started acting up, and he was forced to enter the pits for some emergency repairs. By the time he rejoined the race, he had dropped down to eighth position, and this was his lot, scant reward after a charging ride. The timing sheets provided proof in black and white of his intensity, as the box for the fastest lap of the race was ticked next to his name.
Matiss had a slightly less salubrious start in race two, leaving him with some work to do. He quickly regathered himself, and spent the first two laps in third position. After a perfectly -timed pass, he moved past sand specialist Marc De Reuver and again found himself in second position. He strained every fibre to take the battle to Strijbos, but the Belgian has all the sand-riding wiles in the world and Matiss had to be content with second position.
A technical problem of an altogether different nature kept Matiss back in the early part of race three. He struggled with the tear-off system on his goggles, and without clear vision, he was languishing in seventh position. After resolving the problem, doubtlessly with the aid of some choice Latvian phrases of encouragement, he simply scythed through the field, taking no prisoners. By lap seven, he was in second position once again, but by now Strijbos was long gone, and Matiss rode to yet another second place finish.
With the points for the day tallied up, Matiss came one agonizing point short of finishing second overall on the day. As it is, he ascended the third step of the podium, the top two steps being occupied by Strijbos and Estonian Gert Krestinov. The bubbly sprayed sweetly for him, though, for although he didn’t clinch the win he had set his sights on, he had left his calling card in no uncertain manner. If ever anyone harboured any doubt that he had the speed and ability to mix it with the top boys in the premier class, this had now been dispelled in a spray of sand.
Matiss returns to his native Latvia for a week of intensive fitness training and some familial catching-up. He is all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the rest of the season, though, and for him, the start of the world championship season can’t come fast enough.