The year did, however, have at least one more highlight in store for the young Latvian, by now a steely-bearded 17 years of age. After winning the MX2 junior world title at Heerde, Matiss was invited to participate in the Swann International motocross event in Taupo, New Zealand. THe beautiful lakeside town of Taupo, home town of former Vangani Racing star Ben Townley, will host the 2009 junior motocross world championships, and the presence of the current junior world champion would give the local riders a perfect idea of the level of competition they could expect.
After a flurry of preparation, the big day arrived, and Matiss and dad Ainars boarded the plane for a 23 hour journey to the Southern Hemisphere. Upon arrival, they were met by their hosts, and after a rest, got stuck into an unforgettable week jam-packed with sight-seeing and activities. Some of the activities were not for the faint of heart. A spell of jet-boating on the rapidly-raging stream took care of the water craving, and then Matiss checked with both parachute and bungee cord if gravity works the the same way in the Southern Hemisphere. It does.
A GOOGLE MAPS VIEW OF TAUPO
ONE SECOND LATER, THE OPERATOR, NOT LIKING BARE FEET ON HIS PLATFORM, SHOVED MATISS OFF
After the fun and games, it was time for some work, and Matiss headed for the Taupo track for the weekend's race. The organizers also invited other international stars, such as New Zealand native Josh Coppins, Gareth Swanepoel, Billy Mackenzie and Jason Dougan. Matiss proved that his world title was no fluke, qualifying fastest in his group in the MX2 class.
Unfortunately for the friendly Latvian, his racing exploits on the weekend were to be short lived. After a good start, he charged into the lead in the MX2 race. Within a few laps, he had built a comfortable lead, but then misfortune struck. Misjudging a notorious jump on Taupo's rough track, he landed off-track and was catapulted off his Suzuki. Again gravity did its job, but this time there was no parachute or bungee to catch his fall, and all the braking force was provided by the Taupo underground. Matiss sprained his wrist, and his day's racing was done.
EVEN ON A FAST LAP, MATISS TOOK TIME OUT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE PHOTOGRAPHER
(Pic - Holeshot New Zealand)
Disappointed as he was with his forced withdrawal from the race, Matiss could draw some consolation from the fact that he posted the fastest lap time in his race, and in fact was less than a second slower than GP top gun Coppins, who rode in the MX1 class. Hosts Grant and Vicki Townley were quick to put him at ease, and his new friends and fans attended an evening party to see off the Latvian visitors.
Matiss will spend the next week or so recovering from his injury, after which testing will commence on the MVRD Suzuki in preparation for the 2009 world championship racing season.
Full race results are available online.
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