MOTO-CROSS: MARK Michalski is more than ready to take the step up and start again at the bottom.
In theory, the 17-year-old moto-cross fanatic begins his career in February again, having finished with schoolboys and being promoted next season to adults.
But he has already given notice he has no intention of being among the tail-enders.
Mark, a competitive rider since he was eight, is already steeped in the sport and he is aiming high. 'I want a place in the British U21s team,' he said.
Mark, of Esthers Lane, Weaverham, has just completed his last season in the schoolboy class by winning the Cheshire & North Wales Club championship and finishing third in the North West.
It was good, he says, to finish on a triumphant note, especially after the most testing of seasons in a personal rather than competitive sense.
Three months ago his dad Alec, who had overseen his son's participation in moto-cross and watched him develop into one of the most promising riders in the sport, suffered a stroke and lost his eyesight.
Alec prepared Mark's bike for him and it looked as if he might have to quit. But then in stepped Jim McBain, of MXR Racing, Wrexham - a contact made on the circuit - and he took full responsibility for getting Mark on the track almost every week.
'We don't know what we would have done without him and he cannot know how grateful we are,' said mum Gail.
MXR's involvement allowed Mark to complete his ninth schoolboy season, during which time he has won four titles, numerous runners-up awards, and named Ride of the Year at both his clubs.
He is now an apprentice technician with Dane County Motors and his final appearance of 2003 was his most nerve-racking.
Mark entered the Super Cross event at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff - an American-inspired indoor competition in front of 30,000 fans.
Riding his new 450cc Honda, Mark entered the adult open class - one down from the professionals - and had to qualify during the day for the nighttime finals. He qualified third and was seventh overall.
With Gail talking Alex through the action, Mark did his parents and himself proud, coping with daunting hills and whoops - a series of small hills - with aplomb, better than many of the adults.
It augurs well for next season when Mark has targeted AMCA events to put his name in the U21s international frame.