At 25 years of age, Tyla Rattray is a world class achiever. Look back upon his career, and there is ample evidence for this statement. Third place in the 80cc junior motocross world cup when he was 13. His first GP podium by the time he was 16. A string of Grand Prix victories. A world motocross title in 2008. Yet with all that he has already achieved, there is a good case to be made for the statement that 2010 may very well have been his most memorable year yet.
The view that most of the opposition got pretty used to. Courtesy Frank Hoppen
After having clinched the world MX2 title in 2008, Tyla immersed himself in the maelstrom that is the AMA American motocross championships in 2009. As is the case with everything in the land of the free and the home of the brave, competition is fierce, and the stakes are high. Throughout his career, Tyla has become intimately acquainted with the ecstatic highs and thudding lows that motocross racing can deliver. The 2010 season started in a minor key when he suffered a shoulder injury just before the AMA Supercross Championship Series season started. This forced him onto the sidelines for the entirety of the indoor series, and he had to resign himself to the fact that the best he could do was to prepare himself for the outdoor motocross nationals.
The series opener at Hangtown was somewhat underwhelming, with finishes of 8th and sixteenth in the motos, which got his season concert off to a support band – level start. Tyla did not get to be world champion by curling up in the corner and whimpering, however. His easy going exterior holds a steely resolve, and the determination to overcome setbacks is always present. As the second round at Freestone rolled along, he was ready and came out swinging. The world championship-winning talent was on full display, and he won his second moto on US soil and in the process came within half a second of claiming his first overall victory in the ultra competitive American series.
By round three, the Rattray rock show was on full steam. Whereas before it was picks and arpeggios, now it was full-on riffs and power chords, if we can take the music analogy a bit further. Despite a downpour during the first race that would have prompted Noah to reach for the woodworking tools, Tyla set the scene for a good overall result. A strong second race backed up his effort in the first, and by the time he left High Point raceway, he had his first AMA overall victory notch on the bedpost. He very nearly repeated the feat a week later at Red Bud raceway, but a small error whilst going for a crucial pass kept him to third overall on the day. He had by now slotted into a comfortable second position in the championship standings however.
A troubled outing in the fifth round of the series dropped him a notch in the championship standings, but at round 6 at Red Bud, it was back to the full force Rattattack. He finished second in the first race, and had just made the crucial pass in the second race that would ensure him of overall victory, when his bike hit a nasty bump and he got spat over the bars like a human cannonball. The impact would have flattened everyone short of a world level heavyweight boxer, but to everyone’s surprise, Tyla got up and finished the race. He had dropped a long way down the field by now, though, and his 11th position cost him dearly in the championship race. Tyla has learnt many valuable lessons during his rise to the top and his period at the top, and one of those is that consistency counts. As the season unwound, he was always on or near the podium in every race, keeping the scorecard ticking over.
Then came the day that he will surely not forget as long as he lives. It started real early, 4 am to be exact, with a phone call announcing that his first born, Brooke Kayla Rattray, scored the first holeshot of the day as she was born fit and healthy, if a little vocal. Dad still had a job to do, though, and after a mediocre start in race 1 that dropped him to 8th off the line, he conjured a comeback ride of some note out of his top hat. Race commentator Jeff Emig was running out of superlatives as he described Tyla’s upmarch, and where the gap at one stage seemed unbridgeable, it was visibly shrinking with the end of the race approaching. Tyla was at this stage comfortably posting the fastest lap times of the race, and before long, race leader Trey Canard could feel his minty fresh breath in his neck. They went at it hammer at tongs, but ultimately, Canard prevailed, with Tyla crossing th e line 0.411 seconds behind. There was still another heat to go, though, and with a repeat storming ride, Dadtray rode to yet another victory on his daughter’s birth day. His joy knew no bounds.
Another overall podium in the penultimate round of the series set the scene for a thrilling finale. Although he was third in the championship standings, Tyla still had a mathematical chance of hauling in the title. An extraordinary set of circumstances would need to unfold for him to be crowned champion, but he is not unfamiliar with making the near impossible happen, having once clinched two Dutch motocross titles on a single day against even taller odds. As it transpired, the impossible very nearly happened. Series leader and teammate Christophe Pourcel highsided himself out of the running when the championship trophy was just about resting on his mantelpiece already, and second-placed Trey Canard very nearly xeroxed the move, but managed to hang on. Although Tyla beat both his championship rivals in the day’s tally, Canard had done enough to clinch the title, with Tyla in second position.
The normal run of events after the various international race seasons is for the national teams of each country to assemble for the Motocross of Nations, often called the Olympics of Motocross. The South African team looked well set to give a good account of itself, but in a scandalous and infantile fit of pique that would not have looked out of place on a primary school playground, the South African Federation withdrew the team from the competition, leaving the riders high and dry.
Despite this disappointment, there was still a fair bit of exciting activity in store for one of South Africa’s best sportsmen, however. He was due to enter into a contract for life, not with a team or manufacturer or other sponsor, but with his partner for life, Samantha Noppe. The couple, who had been together for a number of years and who had just recently celebrated the arrival of their first born, jetted off to their homeland South Africa for the nuptials. The beautiful ceremony against a stunning Kwazulu Natal backdrop went off without a hitch (if one discounts the bride and groom getting hitched, that is), and the happy couple could settle in to a couple of weeks’ much-deserved and -needed rest.
The world of professional sports offers scant opportunity for idle moments, though. Tyla inked a deal with the prestigious Monster Energy Pro CIrcuit Kawasaki team again for 2011, and he is already in full preparation mode for the 2011 season. Depending on whether his team elects to enter him for the West – or East Coast supercross series, he may be in action again as soon as the early weeks of January.
After all of that , little remains to be said, except for a big, warm, heartfelt thanks to all who have supported and stood by Tyla during the season and throughout the years. Tyla, his family and team wish each and every one all of the very best for the festive season and a sensational year in 2011.