Interview: Dovydas Karka on his career so far!
It was a tough season for Dovydas Karka who was competing in the EMX250 championship with the CreyMert KTM team. With his rookie year behind him in 2016, he was hoping for much better results this year but he still did have some good races.
For the 2018 season, Karka will take a step back from the GP paddock as he will only do some EMX250 races but he will focus on the ADAC Youngsters Cup series. Hopefully it will help him become a better rider and then we can see him back at the front in the EMX series.
Martin Plesník caught up with Karka to discuss a wide range of topics!
Hello Dovy. First of all I have to ask you about your 2017 season. After a solid end to the 2016 season, you would have expected more from this year? In the EMX250 series, you unfortunately didn’t qualify for five races but you scored points in Russia. You ended up with seven points and 59th in the championship. In the ADAC series you had a good fourth place in Tensfeld but your overall result in the series was worse than last year…
Dovydas Karka: Yeah, the year was much worse than I expected. I’m happy I finished the season healthy, that’s no doubt but my results were way behind. I’ve had some good races for sure, like you’ve mentioned the ADAC in Tensfeld where I scored 4th. I was just battling with myself and my arm-pump every race, especially at the Europeans, I did not bad in Belgian local races or ADAC, but Europeans I just struggled big time. The biggest issue was my arm-pump, every race I would go in, I had arm-pump in 2 or 3 laps, that’s not normal. We’ve tried everything, but nothing helped. I was really upset that I had put in so much work for this season but one small problem ruined everything.
Let’s move on from this year and go back to where it all started. When did you ride a dirtbike for the first time and why did you choose this sport?
Dovydas Karka: I was nearly 4 years old when I got my first Yamaha PW 50. I think every kid that day started with Yamaha PW (laughs). My dad was doing motocross as a hobby and he bought me a bike just for fun, he didn’t have any goals. I started riding in running stadion, but with years I got better and I started loving what I was doing. I am the kind of guy who likes challenges, I never pick the easiest way, it seems lame to me. And no doubt mx is challenging sport, probably that’s why I liked it. I also like action, I wasn’t the type of kid who sits home and watches TV, I was everywhere (laughs).
I can understand that! I love challenges, that’s why I was able to finish the school even though teachers said it’s impossible in my year with 3 subject missing from year ago (laughs). When we talk about the school, I think I’m correct in saying you are going into the last year at school, what have you been studying and what are your plans when you finish with education?
Dovydas Karka: Totally right. I am in the last class of my gymnasium right now and I have the final exams of all 12 years of studying in the Spring. That’s a big thing and the exams are just the same time when the season starts and all the intensity in motocross starts to come. I have few exams same date as the races but I’ll try to manage and go to repeated session instead of missing the races. It’s really difficult to find some time off now to go riding, I can only do that in the weekends or if I leave to Belgium, Germany etc. Even that is not easy, because I miss a lot of school time which is really important for me this year.
But yeah I’m doing my best to manage everything. I love motocross and I have to go to school so I am trying to combine these both things and everyone’s happy. With the future. I don’t know, I have been thinking about it a lot the last months. It’s difficult to plan anything with motocross, what could be my dream job, because from year to year it just gets more about the money than the riding. And it’s not easy to find sponsors or teams who want to sponsor you. So I’ll just do my best this season and will finish my exams and we’ll see what the future brings. I would 100% love to stay in mx somehow but like I said it’s a complicated thing
Well I guess that you already answered about how difficult is it to study while you’re travelling all around the world, but did you get any help from school? Do they understand your MX life? And even though it’s very complicated and difficult, are you a good student?
Dovydas Karka: It is not easy especially if you’re in the last years of school. When I go for a training camp for example, I don’t have a lot of time to study there or even if I have, I just want to rest after heavy days. I take my books with me, but it’s only few days in a week when I can study properly. So when I come back home I have to learn everything by myself in much shorter period of time than the others and I have to write all the tests same as they did, that’s not easy.
I am lucky to say yes, I don’t live in a big town and everyone knows that I do mx and it’s not just a hobby so teachers understand that and they are trying to help me as much as they can for what I’m really thankful. I don’t want to be cocky in this place, but I have clever head (laughs). I have always been a great student. When I used to be smaller, I was one of the best, but when I started travelling and the difficulty of school growth, I started to drop a little, but I am still better than many others (laughs). I also study hard, not only train hard, nothing comes from talent, maybe for 1 out of 100 people, so if you want something, you have to sacrifice something.
This I can understand too. MXGP Matterley Basin 2016 – I had to study Finance Analysis on ferry after 5 days of travelling and race weekend, before 16h of travel to home and also needed to rest before my drive, so I know how you feel. Anyway, you spend most of the year in Belgium what’s logical because of the possibility to train also during the winter, when did you move there and is it difficult to live on your own? Even though you have a girlfriend and many friends around, but still it must have been difficult to be a long way from home and it had to be so tough especially at the beginning?
Dovydas Karka: At the beginning we were coming there only for training camps, because Arminas Jasikonis had a place to stay, wash the bikes etc. But from 2015 we started renting and appartment on our own with Arnas Milevicius. It was difficult, no doubts. Mostly I was there on my own, without dad or mum, I missed home all the time, missed my friends and some time off.
But I think it built me as a person, I was self-dependent already at the age of 16, I could nearly do everything myself. Everything changed this year when my girlfriend came over, I didn’t miss home anymore, she helped me with the bike, clothes washing, with the food etc. It was so much easier to me and I could 100% focus on my sports, also in the free time we had some fun and travelled all around Belgium, I can’t ask more, I’m so grateful to have her. No man is an island I would say.
Anyway Lithuania doesnt seem like an MX country, what are the national sports (I bet that basketball is on a good level over there)? Was it difficult to choose MX and do it here? Not so many people could understand it though.
Dovydas Karka: It’s not popular at all, although it starts to build it’s popularity step by step with some good people working on it. Basketball is the number one in the country, it’s like a religion in Lithuania, everyone knows about basketball. Obviously they have the biggest budget and then all the rest of the sports just fade away. Like I said I began riding with no big targets. It is really difficult to get sponsors, because anywhere you go, they ask what is motocross. People will never want to sponsor you if they don’t even know what you’re doing. That’s a bad side of our sport.
But when I look now, the past few years has had Lithuanian talents and it was almost like junior representation on last MXON’s. Is the popularity of MX grow up in your country? Because AJ is here, you, Arnas and some guys coming over to do EMX and races like that.
Dovydas Karka: I think we (me, Arnas and AJ) three were the ones who tried to achieve something more than Lithuanian title. Our dads took us to train and race abroad already from 65’s. We were always together and trying to reach higher level. And now we are here, two of us are grown-ups already and Arnas is still 16, but higher and bigger than most of you (laughs). There are other guys for sure, like Bučas for example, he worked his butt off, but the problem was and will always be – too less budget and knowledge. With Arminas getting a factory ride and a GP podium, motocross kind of woke up in Lithuania, so I hope it will just be growing every year.
Honestly, I know something about your health issue – I know that you can’t fully stretch out your left arm but not so many people know about it. How did it happen and do you feel it holds you back when riding or during your normal life?
Dovydas Karka: That’s true. I shattered my elbow during a training camp in Italy on 65’s back in 2010. The elbow was just blown in many pieces. From that time I can’t fully stretch my arm, I miss like 30 degrees which is quite a lot. But I adapted to it during the years. I can’t say it holds me back anywhere, maybe in Mx a little, but I adapted my style of riding to it. People live with much bigger issues, so I’m happy it’s only my elbow.
Well you are surely right, anyway it has to be hard sometimes during workout sessions etc. Now nicer questions, what‘s the highlight of your career ? The result or race which you won’t ever forget.
Dovydas Karka: I think there are two highest marks in my career. It was only in the 85’s but it still counts as a result, huh? In 2012 Junior World championship in Sevlievo I holeshoted the first moto and finished 5th just behind American Pinhacos, Forkner won that moto. And 2013 the first race of ADAC MX MASTERS in Furstlich-Drehna where was one of my last race on 85, I finished 2nd overall behind Prado and in front of Savaste. There are sure some other good races like, in 2015 EMX125 in Lommel, I scored 12th place overall. I still hope there are more podiums and good races to come.
You’ve competed at the JWC many times, but for your age you are pretty experienced with MXON too, can you even compare these 2 competitions? Was it your dream since you started to ride to be able to represent your country at MXON and being part of such a big event?
Dovydas Karka: I believe it’s every kid’s dream to represent their country in the biggest event of the year – MXON. And yes, it was mine too. I was so glad and super nervous as well to ride next to the biggest names in our sport. Well the JWC is a great event and it’s a little like junior MXON, you get to represent your country, wear clothes with you country’s flag on it. As a kid, you feel honoured and it’s a big motivation.
When I look around in paddock I see you are pretty popular and you’ve got quite a lot of friends even though they are your big rivals at the track which isn’t that usual. How does it happen?
Dovydas Karka: Well, yes. I’m not the close type of guy. I like to always smile and laugh, to communicate with people. I am friends with many of my rivals off the track, although I keep my circle of close friends small and close to me, you can’t trust or ask for help to anyone who says “hi” to you.
That’s more than true, I have the same opinion. From Holzgerlingen I remember not only that your mum is a really good cook but also that you really love muddy conditions and enjoying riding on it, why is it like this?
Dovydas Karka: (laughs) definitely she is! Everyone who comes over, loves her food. About the muddy conditions, yes. When I was smaller, on 65s or 85s, nearly every weekend I used to train in Estonia with Avo Leok (uncle of Tanel Leok), he is ex GP rider who got paralysed during a crash. Anyway, there was no bad weather for him, nor it’s snowing, nor it’s freezing -15 degrees, if there was training planned, we would always go out and do our job. We rode on snow, on water or on dust, no matter. From those times I’m not afraid of heavy conditions anymore.
Why is MX the best sport for you and don’t you mind that your younger brother likes football a lot too?
Dovydas Karka: No I don’t! Everyone chooses what they like and you can’t blame people for it. As long as he likes to do it and it makes him better, just go for it. It’s probably because MX is in my blood, when you start doing something from so young, it is difficult to get rid of it. I participated in many different sports after I started riding, but it all was just side activities for my fitness, nothing ever got my heart pumping as much as motocross. I am just the guy who likes challenges in his life, I never pick the easiest way, I like to work hard, not only on the bike, but also off, I love to feel adrenaline in my blood. I’ve tried many sports, but nothing ever got me into as much as motocross, I guess it was meant for me to be a motocross rider (laughs).
Sounds so deep, anyway I have to ask, if you weren‘t racing MX, what sport you would choose?
Dovydas Karka: I guess it would be cross country skiing or biathlon. I love winter sports, it’s probably because I was born in winter. I would also like to do freestyle skiing, but it’s more like a show sport, where you only need skill and that’s not for me. Like I said, I love to work hard.
Damn, biathlon, my winter sport #1 since childhood. What are your plans and goals for 2018? I saw you’re coming back to WZ Racing, does it mean that you will move to Waldemar or you will stay in Belgium and just time to time travel to Germany?
Dovydas Karka: My 2 main plans for 2018: finish off my final year in school strong and to finish 2018 season even stronger. I mean it will be difficult combining these both, as I will be forced to have less riding time and more studying time, but the harder it is, the more fun it is right? Yes, I am really happy to be back to WZ Racing, the team over there is a one big family, all for one and one for all. It’s nice to work with people who will do everything to help you.
The team’s layout will be strong this year (wait for more news) and I’m happy to be in the same team with my long time buddy – Tomass Sileika, as well as the other guys. I don’t have any particular plans, I will see how the first round of ADAC goes and we will try to improve from there. For sure I will try as hard as I can and hopefully I can finish the ADAC season on a high note. I will do some of the Europeans as well and hopefully I can finish them much better than this year. And no, I will be visiting Germany part time only. In Spring I will be travelling to each race or training camp from my home in Lithuania, because of school and in summer I’m again going to stay in Belgium and from time to time will be travelling to Germany.
Do you need racing or could you imagine only doing free ride sessions and having fun with friends? Because I’ve seen you like to do free ride so didn’t you think to do something like Axell Hodges in European edition?
Dovydas Karka: Nah, I never thought of it. It’s fun seeing what Axel is able to do on the bike, he takes it to another level. But I don’t think it would work out in Europe, for sure you could do same stuff he does, but in my opinion you would never earn living from it. Yes, I love freeriding, no matter what I do, as long as I’m on my bike, I love it.
At the end you have a word, you can say thanks to everyone and anyone who you would like to. Thanks for a really nice talk, best of luck to the next season and hope you gonna just enjoy riding and will finally stay off the injuries.
Dovydas Karka: Yes, no doubts. I would never be racing and travelling the world if I wouldn’t have the people next to me. Firstly I would like to thank my dad, he’s the main reason why I’m still racing on a high level, I’m so thankful to him for giving me the opportunity. And for sure my family, my girlfriend, my trainer Linas, they put in so much effort on me everyday, it’s mostly about Dovy all the time and I don’t know if I’m ever going to pay it off for them, they make racing and living easier for me. Secondly, I would like to thank Creymert racing for accepting me into their family and everything what they did for me this year. As well as my mechanics Choco and Kuke. Thanks for having me Martin, it was nice talking to you and will see you guys in the track soon.
Pic: Josvydas Elinskas