Matiss Karro is as easy-going as it comes, and the jolly exterior houses an irrepressible spirit. The course of events that unfolded in 2011 as he experienced it, however, would have robbed the most phlegmatic of people of their good cheer. It is a testament to his powers of bounce-back that the likeable Latvian could reflect wryly on the year that was and look forward to new challenges with new vigour.
The year started with the news that the Route77 MVRD team of Mark Chamberlain had switched over to Honda motorcycles. Having started his MX2 career on the red machines, Matiss adapted quickly, and the early season results gave cause for great cheer in the team tent. In early season international races in France, he mixed it up with some of the blue beards of the motocross world, and even put the put the sword to some top level world championship riders of the MX1 class on his smaller and less powerful machine.
Tail-up and brimming with confidence after a successful trip to France, Matiss came out with guns blazing at the opening round of the British championships. With three consistent rides, he earned himself some podium bubbly as he finished second overall on the day. He underscored his eagerness for battle at the prestigious Hawkstone Park International, particularly so in the Superfinal event which pits MX1 – and MX2 class bikes against each other. He scorched to a sixth place finish, the second MX2-class rider home, and it was clear that the Latvian was all set to work towards his self -imposed gaol of a top 10 finish in the world championships. Another near-podium finish at the second round of the British championships added more fuel to his determination fire.
The first GP in Bulgaria delivered a mixed bag of good and bad. He rode to his best ever start of a world championship campaign, finishing 13th overall despite having to suffer the ignominy off another rider jumping on him. In fact, he gritted it out to the finish of the race after said incident, and whereas he thought the leg that twisted badly in the incident was only sprained, he had in fact sustained a spiral fracture , which immediately relegated his next six weeks’ action activities to backgammon or chess, nothing more strenuous than that. Any chance of a good overall world championship finish was now irretrievably gone.
His return to action brought more of the Karro fighting spirit on display, and he struck back with a sixth place finish at his British championship comeback race. He immediately started to add to his world championship tally as well, moving inexorably closer to top 10 finishes. As his home GP, buoyed by the support of a partisan and very large Latvian crowd, he finally broke into the top 10 again.
The second, and more devastating, injury setback came in August at a British Championship event. After fourth place finishes in each of the first two heats, he was still in line for an overall podium finish. He came off the gates like a man on a mission, and pretty soon was fighting for the race lead with Elliot Banks-Browne. The paths of the two bikes intersected just as he was making the pass, and he went down with a thud that had the medical personnel on the way before the proverbial dust had even settled. It was clear that this was a serious accident, and a subsequent examination confirmed that Matiss had fractured a vertebrate in his back, which not only halted his season then and there, but had career-ending potential.
Fortunately, the revalidation went as well as Matiss and his medical minders may have hoped, and a few months after the incident , he could resume fitness training. With no great championship results to boast with other than individual race results, the path to a competitive ride looked steep and narrow. His reputation as a hard charger and easy-to-work-with rider stood him on good stead, though, and it wasn’t too long after him receiving the all clear to ride again that he penned a contract with the UK-based Boost Energy KTM team to ride for them in the MX1 category in 2012.
Matiss’ minders have long maintained that his riding style is more suited to a bigger, more powerful bike, and he has certainly taken to his new mount like a duck to bread-topped water. The gleam is back in his eye, and he looks forward to the 2012 season with great anticipation.
For all the ups and downs that he experienced throughout the year, Matiss, his family and friends had to endure a terrible tragedy when his friend, supporter and training partner Juris Sirmais tragically died in an aeroplane accident late in October. Matiss will carry the memory of the invaluable contribution that Juris made, with him forever.
Matiss is always keen to acknowledge the contribution that every supporter has made to his career, and now, as he bids Mark Chamberlain, his team and family adieu after a few good years of laughs, hard work, shared joys and tears, his excitement for the future is tinged with sadness. They may not be linked as team manager and rider any more, but the friendships forged over the years will remain. Roll on 2012!!
Words Tinus Nel
Images by Ray Chuss