By Alex Hodgkinson | 02 Aug 2011
Since the Baltic nations declared independence from the Soviet Union 20 years ago their riders have been a decided enrichment to the world motocross scene. And one of the teams which has played a significant role in providing their riders with a stepping stone to glory is the MVR-D team which groomed Estonian Tanel Leok towards his factory career, which is now hitting the top ten with Latvian Matiss Karro and has attracted a Lithuainian title sponsor this year in Route77energy.
Team principal Mark Chamberlain, at 32 one of the youngest bosses in the business, explained how the team came into existence: "Back in the 1990s the family was already deeply involved in the sport making videos, and the series promoter took over responsibility for TV production themselves, we didn't want to leave the sport we all enjoy so much. MVR-D was set up initially in 2003 as a UK team, and in 2004 we entered the GPs."
That initial season on the world stage saw the team achieve such immediate impact with Tanel Leok on their two-stroke Suzuki that the Estonian was offered the opportunity to race Suzuki's first factory four-stroke from the middle of the season, and success has continued home and abroad in the years since with Japanese Yoshi Atsuta, Finn Jussi Vehvilainen, Brits Jake Nicholls, Jason Dougan and Carl Nunn and, since 2009, Latvian Matiss Karro.
The team made a resolute decision last winter to switch to Honda, but the backing from their UK division is naturally directed primarily at promotion on the home market through the national championship; there is however always the realisation that the cream of ambitious youngsters can only be attracted if they are also offered the chance to perform on the world stage.
"I have to thank Neil Tuxworth and Havier Beltran at Honda UK for their enthusiasm, interest and commitment when we considered a change of brand last winter," resumed Mark, "but of course we needed additional budget to contest the world series and we are fortunate to have such truly interested sponsors as Route77energy and LDZ Cargo. Without them it would not be possible."
Rolandas Sakauskas, a 40 year old Lithuanian now living in the UK, entered the sport six years ago and has gradually increased the involvement of his Lithuanian food distribution network: "When I was a teenager my parents could not afford to buy me a bike, but I sometimes managed to get a ride on friends' bikes. Now I can afford to buy my own and have got that motocross addiction. I try to practice regularly; it makes me feel like a 20 year old again! I have always favoured teams with Baltic connections, and that is how I came into contact with MVR-D; they gave Tanel Leok from Estonia his first big chance in MX1 and now they have Matiss Karro from Latvia. Sponsoring the team is a good opportunity to do what I really like, namely motocross, and at the same time to promote a new energy drink to the market - Route77energy. Things are working out well with the promotion of R77, not only in motocross, but also in other extreme sports, and we will see what we can create for next season for both motocross & the R77 drink."
"As with Tanel, we would never stand in the way of any of our riders if they were offered a factory ride," continued Mark Chamberlain, "but we are also continually seeking to raise our own profile yet further to take the riders to the very top ourselves." And a flourishing tuning business based at Cowfold in West Sussex gives them a solid technical base.
An unfortunate injury at the opening GP kept team leader Matiss Karro out of action for several weeks, but the 19 year old is now storming the heights again, charging into the midst of the factory stars as he took a stunning ninth place in his home GP at Kegums earlier this month. 18 year old Erki Kahro continues the team's Estonian connection in the European MX2 series along with England's Lewis Tombs (20) in this vibrant young squad which epitomises the fervent emotions which motocross arouses in youth around the globe.
Photo: Route77energy MVR-D Honda - young, enthusiastic and on the way to success. Copyright: Hodgkinson
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