Most teenagers would be happy if they could look back on their 17th year as one during which they passed all subjects at school, stayed out of trouble, did not cause family scandal, made some headway in the love arena, avoided parking the family car into a tree, and generally had a good time. At the same age, Matiss Karro could tick off all these boxes (we guess), and then some. After charging into mainstream motocross consciousness with a noteworthy world championship debut during the last 3 GP's of 2007, the weight of expectation rested heavily on the laconic young Latvian's shoulders to confirm to the motocross world at last that this was all more than the proverbial flash in the pan. With the kind indulgence of our much valued readers, let us embark then on a spot of literary time travel and wind the clock back to the beginning of the year.
Matiss started the season with a couple of stated objectives. His first objective, delivered in delicious deadpan fashion during a video interview at the beginning of the year, was to score GP points - "more than one point" in his immortal words. He was also scheduled to participate in the Latvian - and Dutch championships. In his home series, he was to make an all out effort to claim title honours, whilst in the ultra-competitive Dutch Championship series, known for the giant-slaying, soul-destroying, energy sapping nature of its deep sand tracks, a top 15 result was on the wish list.
MATISS, IN ALL HIS CURLY-HAIRED SPLENDOUR, PREPARES FOR A RACE
Despite all his best intentions, Matiss' run at the Dutch Championship series started in rather less than stellar fashion. The traditional season opener at Gemert delivered disappointment in great dollops, as he failed to qualify for the event. Although this was due to a carburetor malfunction during the qualifying session, it did not lessen the sting of disappointment, and his determination was all the keener as a result. He was as good as his word, and from the second round of the series, he was consistently high in the points. His confidence was growing in leaps and bounds, and at the penultimate round, he had established himself as a top 10 rider in the series. Unfortunately, conflicting race dates prevented him from participating in the last round of the series, but despite missing this round, he finished 13th in the championship, well within his goals.
Matiss' home series served as a great confidence booster. Riding on a wave of confidence acquired in the world - and major international series, he was nigh on untouchable on Latvian soil, winning every single event at which he experienced no trouble with consummate ease. The championship laurels therefore had no option but to wriggle over to the Karro trophy cabinet.
In preparation for his world championship campaign, Matiss also participated in a number of Junior European Championship events. Even at this more elevated level, he reigned supreme. He started the series off with a convincing double win in Lierop, Holland, and won each subsequent race of the series that he participated in, except for a single race when the engine of his bike decided to inject its own blend of drama into proceedings.
AS THE SEASON PROGRESSED, THE RIGA RAIDER'S CONFIDENCE GREW
Matiss harboured no illusions that the MX2 world championship series would be no doddle. Although he had a near dream debut in the series in 2007, qualifying at his first attempt and even scoring a solitary point, he knew full well that this represents the pinnacle of motocross racing, and that the mountain gets steeper the nearer the top. He missed the qualifying hurdle for his first few GP's of the season, even though on several occasions he came agonizingly close. Whereas such setbacks may have broken the resolve of a lesser spirit, Matiss got all the more determined with each raw deal that racing life dealt him.
A break came midway through the season when Beursfoon Suzuki veteran Erik Eggens decided to focus only on sand GP's. Matiss was offered the empty berth, teaming up with his friend and fellow Vangani Racing protege, Shannon Terreblanche. Misfortune made her all-too-common presence known halfway through the season when Shannon broke his femur at the GP of Germany, leaving Matiss for all intents and purposes as the only standard bearer for the Dutch team. He took to his new role with verve, and started qualifying for GP races with regularity.
The sizzle to confirm the flash in the pan still eluded him, however, but at the GP of Belgium at Lommel, the youngster, at that stage still only 16 years of age, again drew the spotlight towards himself. After securing the very last qualifying spot at the death of the qualifying session, he shot out of the start gates like the proverbial scalded cat in the first GP race. His ride was nothing short of sensational, and he held onto 8th place for the major part of the race, until his bike ran out of fuel two laps from the end, a fate that befell quite a few riders in the deep, gas gulping sand of Lommel.
Deeply disappointed as he was at being deprived of his first top 10 GP result in this manner, a consolation prize of no modest proportions lay in wait for him. On the weekend after the fateful GP, he rolled up for the Junior World Championships at Heerde in Holland. Now the observant reader will notice that the Junior World Championships received no mention when we discussed Matiss' goals for the year - this is because up until a few weeks before the event, Matiss' management team had not yet finally decided whether or not he would actually participate in the race.
Be that as it may, Heerde it was, and by now, Matiss had heaps of sand riding experience under his belt. He was up against the world's best under 18 year old riders, and a particular threat loomed in the form of home rider Ceriel Klein Kromhof, acknowledged giant slayer on the sand, and nearly two years older than the young Latvian. Matiss used his sand riding wiles and his unflustered nature to maximum effect to claim world honours, a fitting reward for his year's hard work.
The GP disappointment did not remain unfulfilled for long, either. At the very next GP, Matiss was back at Lierop, where he had ridden himself into recognition in 2007 and where he won a Junior European Championship event earlier in the year. The Lierop Lotto again swung his way. After a strong qualifying performance, he produced a couple of rides that were nothing short of sensational to finish seventh in the GP, and his arrival was confirmed, flash, pan, stove, kitchen and all.
JOY UNBOUNDED AS MATISS STANDS ATOP THE PODIUM AT THE JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
After a season such as this, there was not a shadow of a doubt that Matiss would represent Latvia at the Motocross of Nations. This event, also called the Olympics of Motocross, pits national teams against each other. The Latvian youngster proved yet again that he could mix it with the world's top talent, and his spirit was also buoyed at this stage by the presence of a brand new racing contract for MVRD Suso Suzuki in his back pocket.
IT WASN'T ALL MOONSHINE AND ROSES - SOMETIMES MATISS' LATENT NARCOLEPSY SET IN
As a final shot across the bows of the opposition, Matiss participated in the last round of the British Motocross Championships in the colours of his new team. He could scarcely have dreamt of more illustrious debut on the team's home soil. Against a field that contained several of the world's top 10 riders, he entered stage left and very nearly stole the show, finishing fourth in his British debut.
After a season of tsinging setbacks and soaring successes, a bit of R&R (relaxation and recognition) was not out of place. Matiss was happy to accept an invitation to participate at an invitational event in Taupo, New Zealand, scene of the 2009 junior motocross world championships. Apart from demonstrating his world championship winning skills, he participated in such laid back events as tandem parachuting and bungee jumping. Rumours that these activities actually slowed down his legendary laid back heart rate, could not be confirmed at the time of going to press.
MATISS WANTED TO TRY WITH THE BUNGEE ROUND HIS NECK, BUT THE JUMPMASTER SAID NO AND SHOVED HIM OFF
Having turned the ripe old age of 17 in the meantime, the final highlight of the year took Matiss to the glitz and glamour of Monaco. At a glittering event, he received his world championship award. Standing on stage, in the glare of the media spotlights, one could imagine him thinking of all that had gone before. The elfin smile that tugged the one corner of his mouth upwards, more than told the story ...
TWO WORLD CHAMPS SHARING A VANGANI RACING HISTORY - TYLA RATTRAY AND MATISS KARRO
Nothing remains but to thank Matiss' sponsors and supporters, one and all for their contribution and support, and to wish everyone a very happy festive season and a prosperous New Year. In the spirit of a year-end review, this report contains more photos than usual. For the visually inclined, we have included an additional treat, in the form of links to three videos featuring the likeable youngster:
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