The most successful motocrosser in the history of the sport Stefan Everts proved exactly why he holds the accolade today at the Karntenring circuit for the Grand Prix of Austria when he completed another remarkable double moto victory by winning the 125 category and then defeating Mickael Pichon by 0.3 of a second after a brilliant Motocross GP event.
The Karntenring was the scene of Everts’ 2001 500cc World Championship success and thrilling last corner win in 2002 when he passed Yves Demaria with barely 30 metres left of the GP. This time it was the factory Yamaha rider’s turn to be put under pressure in the dying moments of the MXGP race as Pichon laid siege to his slim advantage in what had been a fascinating duel between the two World Champions.
Race-day commenced under bright blue skies and blazing sunshine interrupted very occasionally by passing whispy clouds for the fifth consecutive time in 2003.
All season fans, spectators and those within the sport had been waiting for the first real face-off between the two current giants
of GP motocross and today they got their ‘fill’ as Everts and Pichon battled at various times in the race; each taking their turn to lead, each taking their turn to stalk and when paint started to be
traded each proved to be as tough and hard in their passing moves as the other. They were rarely split by more than a second and the 35 minute and 2 lap race distance seemed to pass in a blur.
The 13,000 Austrian fans soaked up every minute of the action and Pichon and Everts embraced after the passing the chequered flag, showing their deep respect for one another.
Both riders have now won three races each and the Championship is starting to reflect the close tussle that occurred on the track this afternoon as the pair are separated by only eight points with Pichon still leading.
KTM’s Joel Smets ended his streak of five consecutive podium results after a first lap crash dropped him to 18th. The Belgian fought back to 5th but lost second position in the standings to Everts by one point.
Gordon Crockard notched his second podium of the season with some impressive speed after coming back from a broken finger, but suffered a lonely race back in third. Brian Jorgensen was also lapping with himself for company but must be content with his fourth top five finish of the year.
Smets beat Yoshitaka Atsuta on the last lap after the Japanese Honda ace produced his best ride of his World Championship career so far. Back in seventh was Marnicq Bervoets while Jamie Dobb made an encouraging start to his four-stroke campaign by guiding the 450 to eighth. Claudio Federici and Marc Ristori completed the top ten.
“It was a tough fight,” remarked Everts. “Mickael Pichon really pushed hard in the first laps and as soon as I could get past him I changed my line. My pass was quite aggressive but as soon as I was in front I tired really hard to gain a few seconds and it was important to have done that because Mickael was again very strong towards the end. I gave everything I could today and it was a vital result for the Championship.”
Everts produced a text book performance in the 125cc moto, remaining faultless from the second lap when he took the lead until the chequered flag despite a constant threat from KTM’s Steve Ramon who remained less than two seconds behind (and often much closer but unable to make a passing move) and proved to be the Yamaha 250cc four-stroke rider’s shadow adding an edge of tension to the 35 minute and two lap distance (indeed providing ample preparation for the World Champ in the later MX GP race).
Andrea Bartolini, also on a Yamaha four-stroke, completed the podium after only ten minutes into the event as the trio pulled clear of Marc De Reuver in fourth, Erik Eggens in fifth and World Champion Mickael Maschio in sixth, who crashed with several other riders in the first corner but fought his way up from last to a solitary position adrift of Eggen’s rear wheel. Bartolini looked at one stage as if he might be able to interfere in the intense feud between the two Belgians but a mistake a third of the way into the race dropped him off the pace and he could never quite get close enough again. With two laps to go Everts made one last push and broke Ramon’s hold going on to win his second 125cc trophy of the season and lifting him to sixth in the World Championship table despite only participating in three GPs so far this season. Taking part in the opening race of the day really seems to be paying dividends for the Belgian in his MXGP pursuit; since the switch to his two moto strategy Everts has taken 5 wins and a fourth place from six attempts.
The standings are still very close with four riders separated by 11 points. Ramon now is the clear leader by three points from Bartolini, who collected his fourth podium of the season this afternoon, while De Reuver trails his team-mate by four. Maschio lies in fourth.
No change in the 650s as Joel Smets eased his way to a sixth consecutive race victory and had regular podium buddies Javier Garcia Vico and Cedric for company. Vico had been an early leader on the factory KTM as Smets took his time to increase the pace from a first lap placing of fifth. The 34 year old Belgian took control on lap nine after a brief struggle and went on to win by 12 seconds ahead of his Spanish team-mate; KTM’s first win of the day at their home GP and only three podium spots in total from a possible nine.
Roman Jelen was fourth and headed Fabrizio Dini. Smets naturally has a perfect points tally in the Championship and enjoys an advantage of 20 over Vico in second.
The seventh round of the World Championships occurs in two weeks time at Uddevalla in Sweden.
CAS Honda’s Gordon Crockard returned to action after three week layoff through injury and stepped immediately on the podium taking 3rd position at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, round six of the World Motocross Championship. The 25 year old Irishman riding the Honda 450 F four stroke machine battled through the dust to pull back from an average start to finish behind Belgium Stefan Everts (Yamaha) who recorded his 59th Grand Prix victory and Motocross Grand Prix championship leader Mickael Pichon (Suzuki), the Frenchman came a very close second as the battle for the lead went down to the finish line.
Crockard who broke his shoulder earlier in the season and then a knuckle three weeks ago just before the Italian GP is still lying in 9th position overall in the championship just four points behind team mate Yoshitaka Atsuta, the former Japanese Champion recorded his best result of the season taking 6th position. Dane Brian Jorgensen was lying in 3rd position for nearly half the race distance of 19 laps, he could not hold off the charging Ulsterman as Crockard took a big leap on a step up to get his CAS Honda in front at the next right hand turn. Jorgensen finished in fourth position and retains his 4th position in the championship.
Winner Stefan Everts once again competed in both the 125cc class and the MXGP class, he won both races and closes the gap on Pichon lead to only 8 points, once again the might of the four stroke was too much for Pichon’s two stroke Suzuki. Pichon was the early race leader, Everts passed him on lap five but Pichon came back several times before the pair made contact in a very fast left hand turn leading into the rhythm section. Pichon fell and Everts went away. Pichon fought back and the pair almost crossed the line together, the gap separating was recoded at 0.350 of a second.
Crockard said “ Both Pichon and Everts are fighting for the championship, I have missed several races but I am still in contention for the top five, I feel that I have nothing to loose and gave it everything I had to come through and take to the podium. I need more practice and race time on the bike, but out of the three grand prix's I have finished I have taken the podium twice so I am very pleased. The bike was awesome, when I get back up to speed there should be no reason why I can be fighting for the leader rather than finishing third. I feel very good physically but I know that I can still improve, my had never bothered me in the race and my shoulder is getting stronger by the day. Having been out of action for several weeks my concentration is not what it should be it will improve as will my speed.”
Atsuta said “ I put in my best ever qualification time with 18th position on the starting line, I recorded my best result with six position I am very happy, I made a very good start and was lying in 4th position behind Jorgensen, I was feeling nervous and couldn’t relax on the bike, Crockard passed me and I tried to stay with him but he had some strange lines through rough dirt, I wanted to ride more smooth and soon he was gone. I was content with 5th position but then on the start of the very last lap Joel Smets caught and passed me, I was very annoyed but it was too late to try and catch Smets, still 6th was good and I was more than happy to take 15 points to tie on 7th position in the championship with Andrew McFarlane (Kawasaki).
Jorgensen said “ I have a small shoulder injury that I picked up during the week, I was holding a strong 3rd position but Crockard managed to jump right by me, I couldn’t fight back, 4th place at the chequered flag was much better than I had hoped for, I haven’t been able to train and my physical condition is not what it should be.”
Pichon said “ that was a very good race, it was tough race in the beginning I didn’t want to push too hard but I knew that Stefan (Everts) would be coming he was riding the track very well having won the previous 125cc GP. I was pushing hard but when I closed the gap he managed to pull away, but it was like we were on elastic, I went down but then caught him up and I didn’t give in until the line, I tried really hard in the very last corner but he just had a better line and we closed the line virtually side by side.”
Everts said “ I knew that I could let Pichon pull away at the start, I already had 40 minutes of racing in my legs but I knew that if I could stay with him I could pass him and win. Pichon made a mistake and I took over the lead on lap five or six, I was a little worried that he would be watching my lines and setting me up for a pass. I felt faster but I knew he wouldn’t give in, I have closed in on his lead and now he is starting to defend it very hard, we made contact once of twice but that’s racing, he went missing for a while but then came back towards the end. The race was shoulder to shoulder, he tried the same manoeuvre I made last year in the very last corner, I managed to steal the win from Demaria here in 2002 but I held my line and took the win. The season has reached the half way point, I started slower that Pichon but I think by riding two classes it helps me to learn that track and I go out of the MXGP feeling more loose. The heat could have been a problem but I tried t as possible as I knew the battle with Pichon would be a tough one.”
CAS’s Honda Team Owner Harry Ainsworth was delighted with his two rider’s race performance, two of the team’s four riders are out injured but the performance of Crockard and Atsuta more than made up for the absence of Coppins and Vehvilainen. Josh Coppins picked up a knee infection after Bulgaria and was detained in hospital in Italy for treatment while Jussi Vehvilainen has undergone surgery to his injured back. Ainsworth said “ I think that was a remarkable return to action from Gordon we know he is lacking bike fitness but once again he showed than nothing will hold him back, he has a tremendous fighting spirit, He didn’t make the best of starts but fought through to fifth, I think he would have been unable to run with the pace at the front had he been up there with the early race leaders, it was better that he came through and he his own speed and line without being pressured from behind. Yoshi just keeps getting better and better, he was riding nervously for a few laps and it to down, just when 5th looked like a certainty Smets caught and passed him. I was very pleased with his 6th place, now he has had a good result and start to believe in himself I am sure he will only go forward from this point on.”
650cc Grand Prix – Podium For Sick Melotte.
Cedric Melotte (Cavatorta Honda) climbed to the podium for the fourth time
in six races, the Belgium Honda rider put a lot of effort in to try to catch early race leader Spaniard Javier Garcia Vico (KTM) but Melotte who was struggling with the effects of sun stroke was soon
struggled to hold his pace out front and faded to finish 3rd. Joel Smets (KTM) continued his total dominance in the 650cc class, he has won all six grand prix’s this season and extends his lead over
Vico to twenty points. Melotte is lying in 3rd position a further twelve points behind Vico but has a comfortable 48 point gap over Italian Fabrizio Dini (Honda). Smets recovered from a bad start but
fought through to challenge for the lead on lap nine, the Belgian had fought hard in the MXGP class to finish 5th position and was furious that he suffered a lot of wheel spin of the line which left him
back in ten position during the opening turns. He made a further mistake but soon caught and passed Melotte before windin e Vico to take over the lead and score a further 25 points.
Yamaha L&M Motocross Team rider Stefan Everts held off a determined last lap charge from Mickael Pichon (Suzuki) to win his
third consecutive Motocross GP and complete his second double victory of the season.
Steve Ramon took the lead in the 125cc World Championship today with a solid second place behind Stefan Everts
that was so close to being a victory after the young Belgian shadowed his decorated countryman for the entire race distance, but was unable to seize the lead from the 250cc Yamaha four-stroke. Marc De
Reuver has slipped to third in the standings after finishing fourth, while Erik Eggens scored a strong but lonely fifth.
1 Stefan Everts BEL YAMAHA 25
2 Mickael Pichon FRA SUZUKI 22
3 Gordon Crockard GBR HONDA 20
4 Brian Jorgensen DEN HONDA 18
5 Joël Smets BEL KTM 16
6 Yoshitaka Atsuta JPN HONDA 15
7 Marnicq Bervoets BEL YAMAHA 14
8 James Dobb GBR KTM 13
9 Claudio Federici ITA YAMAHA 12
10 Marc Ristori SUI HONDA 11
1 Mickael Pichon FRA SUZUKI 133
2 Stefan Everts BEL YAMAHA 125
3 Joël Smets BEL KTM 124
4 Brian Jorgensen DEN HONDA 85
5 Claudio Federici ITA YAMAHA 76
6 Kenneth Gundersen NOR KAWASAKI 67
7 Andrew MacFarlane AUS KAWASAKI 64
8 Yoshitaka Atsuta JPN HONDA 64
9 Gordon Crockard GBR HONDA 60
10 Kevin Strijbos BEL SUZUKI 48
1 Joël Smets BEL KTM 25
2 Javier Garcia Vico SPA KTM 22
3 Cédric Melotte BEL HONDA 20
4 Roman Jelen SLO HONDA 18
5 Fabrizio Dini ITA HONDA 16
6 Trampas Parker USA KTM 15
7 Michal Kadlecek CZE YAMAHA 14
8 Bernd Eckenbach GER KTM 13
9 Danny Theybers BEL HUSABERG 12
10 James Noble GBR HONDA 11
1 Joël Smets BEL KTM 150
2 Javier Garcia Vico SPA KTM 130
3 Cédric Melotte BEL HONDA 118
4 Fabrizio Dini ITA HONDA 70
5 Michal Kadlecek CZE YAMAHA 65
6 Bernd Eckenbach GER KTM 63
7 Danny Theybers BEL HUSABERG 62
8 Roman Jelen SLO HONDA 58
9 Trampas Parker USA KTM 58
10 Mark Eastwood GBR HONDA 54
23 Yves Demaria FRA KTM 20
1 Stefan Everts BEL YAMAHA
2 Steve Ramon BEL KTM
3 Andrea Bartolini ITA YAMAHA
4 Marc De Reuver NEL KTM
5 Erik Eggens NEL KTM
6 Mickael Maschio FRA KAWASAKI
7 Pascal Leuret FRA KTM
8 Marvin Van Daele BEL KTM
9 Jeremy Tarroux FRA SUZUKI
10 Tyla Rattray RSA KTM
1 Steve Ramon BEL KTM 118
2 Andrea Bartolini ITA YAMAHA 115
3 Marc De Reuver NEL KTM 114
4 Mickael Maschio FRA KAWASAKI 107
5 Erik Eggens NEL KTM 76
6 Stefan Everts BEL YAMAHA 68
7 Tyla Rattray RSA KTM 63
8 Stephen Sword GBR KTM 59
9 Rodrig Thain FRA HUSQVARNA 58
10 Alessio Chiodi ITA YAMAHA 55