If Matiss Karro were an unknown quantity in British motocross circles a few months ago, this certainly no longer holds true. In only a few outings on British soil, the Latvian teenager has wowed the British faithful with his uncompromising fighting spirit on the track, and his easy-going demeanour off it. Whereas his name would have created furrows of puzzlement on motocross fans' faces before, now he's on many punters' tip sheets as a podium finisher. Such is the difference that a few eye-catching rides can make.
After narrowly missing an overall podium finish at the first round of the British motocross championships a few weeks ago, the Riga Raider was fit and raring to go at the second round of the series. Again, the trip did not tax the team's diesel card unduly, as it was held in nearby Langrish in beautifully sunny spring(ish) weather. In his characteristic no-nonsense style, Matiss got stuck right into the qualifying session, and secured the fourth gate for himself, with only three established GP stars heading him in the timing sheets.
By now the whole motocross world knows that Matiss is adept at pulling the pin at the start, and again his MVR-D Suzuki surged to the front. World championship contenders Stephen Sword and Shaun Simpson soon found a way past, but there was no dishonour in that, and Matiss kept the rest of a classy field behind him to finish third in a British championship for the second time in as many races.
The scene for a potential overall podium finish was set, and the curly-headed one again answered the call and launched his 17 year old self into the first corner in fourth position. Now Matiss is not world-renowned for hanging around when there are passes to be made, and consequently, he immediately took the battle to third-placed Pascal Leuret. Unfortunately for him, in so doing he was forced off the racing line, and a mean bump kicked his bike up and flung him into- and over the handlebars. The brief metal-to-flesh dispute was settled in favour of the metal, and a bruise that resembled a badly-designed tattoo immediately started forming on the affected limb.
Matiss was not of the inclination to examine his new body art right at that moment, but rather more interested at getting back into the race. He remounted painfully, and on the next circulation, he was recorded way down in 28th position. After a lap or so to catch his breath, he turned the wick on full again, and charged through the field at a dizzying rate. The race was by now nearly a quarter done and the leaders just a speck on the horizon, but he pulled all his tricks out of the bag and worked his way all the way up to 12th position, a comeback ride that had not escaped the attention of the trackside commentator or the swollen crowd.
The triple axle body slam held Matiss down to sixth overall on the day, a result that would clearly have had a different tint but for the crash. The teenager is sitting strongly in fifth position in the championship standings, just 8 points adrift of third-placed Neville Bradshaw.
Though clearly in pain, Matiss was fairly upbeat about his day. "It was just one of those crashes that could happen to anyone," he explained. "I was very happy about my speed, though. This is a hard-pack track, which is not what I'm best on, but in the first race I had the same lap time as (Shaun) Simpson and (Stephen) Sword." A quick glance at the timing sheets bore him out. The youngster was within fractions of a second off the fastest lap times of both these top GP contenders, and if he had any doubts whether he was ready for the hard-track GP's surely these have now been effectively erased.
The team's next outing is at Faenza, Italy, next weekend, as the fanfares will sound and banners unfurl for the first world championship event of 2009.
RACING HIGH ABOVE THE SOMEWHAT DISINTERESTED CROWD
(Pic- Stefan Paetow)
SPRING HAS SPRUNG, AND LITTLE YELLOW SUZUKIS ARE JUMPING FOR JOY
(Pic- Stefan Paetow)