Matty Graham celebrated the crowning glory of his impressive 2011 karting campaign, surrounded by some of the biggest stars in motor racing at the glittering FIA gala in India – and he admitted that to collect his trophy in front of the sport’s elite was indubitably the icing on the cake of a superb season.

As a measure of the significance of his success this year, defeating almost 80 adversaries representing the very crème de la crème of global opposition to magnificently clinch the coveted CIK-FIA under-18 world Championship laurels, Matty was one of only two karters worldwide to be invited to the glamorous FIA gala, held in luxurious surroundings of the kingdom of Dreams in New Delhi.

“It was a huge privilege to be asked to go,” reflected the talented young Edmundbyers speed demon. “There were so many F1 drivers there and other big names, and they called it a family of World Champions – it was so special to know I was amongst them. It was such a good evening, and the Kingdom of Dreams was just amazing – I never expected it to be as spectacular as it was!”

Matty might have confessed to being rather nervous before being called up on stage, but his reward made it more than worthwhile, and as he rubbed shoulders with F1′s great and good, some – Red Bull Racing duo Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber most prominently amongst them – even took the time to speak to him and personally congratulate the 15-year-old Ponteland Community High School pupil on his outstanding achievement.

“It was a brilliant way to end the year,” he enthused, “I had high hopes for my first participation in the Under-18 World Championship, but I knew the competition would be fierce so I wasn’t necessarily targeting the title. After winning the first round at Ortona, though, we began to realise we could do it.

The weather conditions in the last round at Sarno were awful, and when I crossed the finish line in third place, I wasn’t sure whether I had done enough as I didn’t know where my main rival was – but when I was my parents hanging over the pit wall waving and cheering, I knew I had done it!”

Overall, it was a great experience and the competitive spirit was very enjoyable. To be Under-18 World Champion is a fantastic feeling, and obviously doesn’t do my CV any harm, either! It’s as good as it gets, really. My team, MSport Zanardi, were brilliant – the kart was pretty much spot-on every time, and the environment  and professionalism were always first-rate, We admittedly didn’t have the best of starts to the year, but it ended on a real high – and I think we proved we had the speed all the way through.”

That much is no idle boast, and as Matty now eyes graduation to KF2 and perhaps also KF1 level in 2012 – both on home turf and internationally – the highly-rated Co.Durham based hotshot is quick to assert that he is up for the fight.

“I don’t envisage it being that much of a step, if I’m honest,” he mused. “the power isn’t all that different, but the biggest change to get used to will be the front breaks. Hopefully we’ll get plenty of pre-season testing to get to grips with it all before the serious business gets under way. It’s certainly the logical next step to take – and I definitely feel ready for it.”