Home   Malling   News   Article

Disabled go-kart racer, 7, from Kings Hill, dreams of being a Formula 1 driver

As a toddler Matt Knoesen could barely stand having been born with twisted legs and spending months in a cast, but that didn't stop him climbing on his walker and using the bar to swing and try some tricks.

Doctors warned that Matt, from Kings Hill, would never be able to walk or crawl and his parents even considered amputating his lower legs.

Matt was born with his knees locked into a bend and had numerous surgeries
Matt was born with his knees locked into a bend and had numerous surgeries

After defying the odds, the seven-year-old, who is a formidable go-kart racer, now dreams of being a Formula 1 driver and his family are determined to make it happen.

"Nobody can quite believe it. He arrives at the track in his wheelchair and leaves with the trophies," mum, Kerry, says.

Matt was born with a spinal cord injury, which left his knees locked in a full bend and his hips tight.

He was transferred to a specialist hospital in London, his family moving from Kings Hill, to be closer to Matt's doctors.

He had numerous operations and it was discovered that he had no use of his legs below the knee.

Matt Knoesen (centre) with his mum Kerry, brother Tim and father Gavin
Matt Knoesen (centre) with his mum Kerry, brother Tim and father Gavin

Before his third birthday he was in and out casts and was often in a lot of pain.

He now wears braces for his lower legs and uses a wheelchair for long distances. A walk around Asda is still too hard, but even those small steps defy medical predictions.

The constant hospital appointments and uncertainty about Matt's condition took a toll on Kerry, 39, and husband Gavin, 40, who also have a four-year-old son, Tim.

"It was very tough, it was only after he was two or three-years-old that we had a proper understanding of what was actually going on. Doctors wouldn't give you a best case or worse case scenario.

"You learn you can't plan too far ahead. When you have kids you think 'they are going to do this' or 'my kids's going to be a rugby player'.

Matt surrounded by his car models in his Kings Hill home
Matt surrounded by his car models in his Kings Hill home

"We had to learn to take it a day at a time. Now Matt's life is so much better that way," Kerry, a stay-at-home mum, said.

When being pushed on swings, Matt would always want to go higher and his parents noticed a love for speed and a fascination with cars after they first showed him F1 on the TV.

"Ever since he was tiny he had to go high and fast. His speech developed amazingly quickly and at two he could name any cars on the road," Kerry said.

Matt has collected around 50 minature car models and his new speedy wheelchair has been kitted out with F1 stickers on the wheels.

Even as a baby, Matt was obsessed with cars
Even as a baby, Matt was obsessed with cars

The wheelchair, provided by charity Whizz-Kidz is an upgrade from his standard heavy NHS one and allows him to do tricks and wheelies.

"It's given him a lot of freedom and so much confidence," Kerry said. Before, Matt would feel uncomfortable if people stared at his NHS wheelchair in the supermarket, now he's proud of his kitted-out ride.

In May, the boy racer raised almost £2,500 for Whizz-Kidz by completing 26 laps of his street in his wheelchair, a total of eight kilometres, over 13 days, lifting the spirits of cheering neighbours in lockdown.

It was a welcome distraction as Matt is missing go-karting at Buckmore Park in Chatham, where he's been whizzing around since August as part of the bambino class.

"In his first race he came tenth or eleventh, but on his seventh birthday he came first. He's using his hip flexes to control the pedals as he's got no movement below his knees, it's exhausting.

Matt finishing his final lap of his street in his wheelchair, raising nearly £1,500 for Whizz-Kidz
Matt finishing his final lap of his street in his wheelchair, raising nearly £1,500 for Whizz-Kidz

"He wants to be the fastest. He gets in his kart, he puts his visor down and there's no difference between him and the other kids, " Kerry said.

When lockdown restrictions have sufficiently eased, Matt will start training with the Honda Cadets, which could see him compete in international championships.

He dreams that one day the imitation F1 wheels on his wheelchair will be the real thing and he'll be racing for McLaren or Red Bull.

Kerry is confident too. "He has got such an incredible gift for racing, we absolutely believe he can do it."

Read more: All the latest news from Malling


More by this author


This website and its associated newspaper are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More