Last weekend the Grand Prix of France, round eight of seventeen in the FIM Motocross World Championship, brought back some powerful memories for Red Bull KTM MX2 team manager Stefan Everts. It was at the Ernee circuit in 2003 that the ten times world champion won all three categories in one day (then 125, MXGP and 650 in the one moto per class format) and then in 2006 claimed his fourteenth triumph from fifteen rounds that year to retire from the sport with a phenomenal 101 Grand Prix victories.
“I wasn’t nervous in 2006,” he said “I was just emotional. I had a broken heart! Even though I never thought once about changing my mind on retiring that year I was actually sad before going out for that race.”
The Belgian closed the door on a career that spanned fifteen years at the steep hillside track in what is a popular region of France for dirt bike racing. “It was really ‘the end’. Sometimes Liam [his nine year old son] puts on the DVD and we watch the film and I can remember almost holding back tears as we got ready in the gate. It is still emotional for me to see that but it is nice to come back to Ernee, I have to say. I always had a special connection with a couple of tracks; Ernee was one, Foxhill in England was another and of course there was Namur in Belgium [where he won the ’06 MX1 title]. Those places always brought me good things but the Motocross of Nations at Ernee in 2005 wasn’t that great. I think that was the only low moment.”
Everts’ success in 2003 was a historic moment in the sport. Something that hadn’t been done before and unlikely to be repeated. “Winning the three Grands Prix here was incredible and the long-time fans here reminded me about that as I came in here each day,” he commented. “I remember crashing in that last moto fighting with Vico and there was a time when I thought it might not possible [the triple]. I also remember sitting in a small hut just across the river afterwards for three hours because I couldn’t take a piss for the doping control. I was so exhausted and dehydrated. All the fans were waiting to see me and I was just sat there!”
The official crowd figure for the weekend at Ernee was 39,000 and the atmosphere was one of the noisiest and vibrant of the 2013 term so far. For the fifth time this season Red Bull KTM ruled both MX1 and MX2 thanks to reigning champions Tony Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings.
“Ernee is special,” confirms Everts. “The hill always seems to be full of people and standing on that podium in front of them three times in one day in 2003…I felt like a king. A guy came up to me today with a photo of him catching a helmet I had thrown into the crowd. He said he had to fight so hard for it and he was so proud to be able to show me the picture.”
Everts has been a key figure in KTM’s motocross programme since the end of 2006 and he is now imparting his wisdom on the young careers of Herlings and team-mate Jordi Tixier as well as keeping an eye on the next talent to take into the Orange camp: “It is nice to be at every race, whether it’s Qatar, Thailand or whatever. It is a pity I did not get to race at these new places. I like being so closely involved with racing and cool to still have some influence.”