In the second part of our Stefan Everts interview, (read part one on the situation with Suzuki and Stefan’s thoughts on the upcoming MXGP season here) we talk to Stefan about his career, getting the respect in America and talk about his son Liam’s progress in the sport.
On your career, did you ever look at winning ten world titles? I know you looked at Joel Robert’s record but was ten ever in the plan and what allowed you to win ten – what made the difference?
I just went in the steps. Once I broke the record of Robert, for me I wasn’t so much focused on the ten, I just went year by year. The last year, I decided a couple of years before I would stop in 2006. During that winter I put my level really to make sure I could stop with ten titles. I succeeded but it was not like since I was a small kid I wanted to win ten world championships, it was not the case, it just came that way.
It’s a bit similar to Tony, he is enjoying his riding, he feels well inside his team. I had the same, he doesn’t have a lot of stress and pressure, he just enjoys his riding. Train for it and be ready and as long as you can do that and enjoy you can continue.
For me at one point I was mentally finished, I had had enough of it. I could have went on for a couple of more years because I still liked the training and the racing, but mentally I was finished.
Looking back over your career you had a few hard rivalries from Donny Schmit, Greg Albertyn then Bervoets for a while, then Tortelli then Tortelli again when he came back, who did you enjoy racing the most and who did you find most difficult to race?
For me the most difficult year was 1998, when Tortelli won the title. It was a really tough year battling each other every race, we were first or second place, it was tough to get a grip on the championship and that made it so much tougher. I was expecting him to make the mistake but he didn’t that year and at the end I was done, I was finished. He made that small difference in the end.
See a fantastic battle with Everts and Tortelli in 97:
For me Pichon was also in a way difficult. It was tough to get a grip on him, he was changing so much from black to white, especially that first year we started racing each other in 2003. He won the first three GPs and I was struggling a lot then I made the click by doing the double header MX2 and MXGP in Italy and I took off but still he could go extremely fast and put on some really fast laps but eventually it came out good.
For the rest I think Marnicq, he was a tough guy at some moments and Smets too but I felt they never really got into my head too much.
Greg Albertyn seemed to be the most difficult early in your career but do you feel that made you mentally stronger and helped get your first 250 title in 1995, especially after 1994 when you won the most races but injury and bad luck it got away from you?
Yeah at that time (92-93) it went to three motos. I won the battle in ’91 then went to the 250 and go the spleen injury. For ’93 Greg came to the 250 class and we had those three motos and I struggled at times so much with my starts. My bike was not good, when I went to Kawasaki (94) my starts got fixed and were a lot better but I still lost the championship also due to a collarbone injury and a couple of DNFs. It was two tough years but it was also a way of getting stronger like you say, but it was a tough time for me mentally to accept that.
Watch Everts at the USGP in 94 brave the pain after a broken collarbone at the previous round:
I felt in my head the strongest and the fastest and I couldn’t realise that in results, it was so frustrating, I got more and more frustrated so it was a tough time. But it made me stronger for the future it was also a lack of experience at that time, it was many things. And Greg, all the respect to Greg, he did good, especially in 93 he nailed most of the holeshots and I was in the back of the pack trying to come back and missed out every time, and he went home with the trophy, it was frustrating and to see him win the title was even more tough.
But that is part of the development of a career, with ups and downs, that’s the way it is.
At that time in the 90s it was looked at that the Americans were better but with you, Greg and Sebastien I’m not sure that was always the case, you guys maybe had the upper hand at times, and Belgium won the MXoN a few times from the mid 90s. But until Villopoto came over in 2015, it’s only then the GPs seem to get the respect they deserved for a number of years. Was that ever a frustration when you were racing trying to get their respect? Now guys like Herlings and Cairoli have that respect.
Yeah that is true. When I started doing the Nations in the 90s, they had won many times because they were just better but then during the 90s we had a couple of shit things happening but it’s true since the past five or six years, the European riders are stronger. The Americans cannot come here anymore and win everything at the Nations. The respect has been growing in the US for that.
In my time it was a big difference (with respect) but I can’t change that anymore, I tried Unadilla (97) and got a third in moto (crashing both motos) and we did the US GP a few times and I won in 93.
They are the best at supercross that’s clear but the Europeans are very strong in motocross so let’s leave it at that!
Did you ever wish a Jeremy McGrath, Jeff Emig or Ricky Carmichael would have come and raced you in the world championship like Villopoto did and not just a one-off race?
Yeah, it’s always different when you do one race or the full championship, it’s a big difference. We had a lot of Americans coming over and some succeeded; Danny Laporte, Brad Lackey, Mike Healey did good, Bob Moore, Dony Schmit. They were not the big names in the USA but they did good and they still did not get the respect in the USA because they were not top there, even if they came here and did good results because they thought it was the second-tier riders coming over and winning in Europe.
I think when Ryan came over he was not completely focussed, it was to do with sponsors. It was a pity to see his career end as it did because for me Ryan is one of the greatest in America with Ricky Carmichael, McGrath and Johnson.
Looking at the different styles, James Stewart had the aggression and brought the Bubba scrub to the world, you on the other hand were very smooth and had your standing up technique and now a lot of the young guys are known for standing up late into the turns, so do you feel you have contributed a bit like James to a riding style in the sport? And how did your standing up technique come about?
Yeah, I think I have made a big influence on that, yeah. I think it came about even when I did a lot of trials bike riding in the mid 90s. But even before that I had a lot of standing already. But during the years of riding the trials bike I developed it much more and my balance got even better. On some tracks it’s not even necessary to put my foot out, I can keep my feet on the footpegs all the way round. But thanks to that trial biking I developed that technique much more. Everyone really speaks about Stewart and the scrub and some people talk about Everts and the standing technique, it’s cool to the hear that.
See Stefan winning the 500 GP at Namur on a 500 Aluminium framed Honda in a one-off ride in 1998:
Finally, on Liam, how is his progression coming along, it seems you didn’t push him too hard too young but now as he is getting older he is being pushed more?
Yeah that’s true I didn’t really push him at all and still today I am not pushing him too hard. He is still just a young kid, 13 years old, there is still a long way to go before it really starts. He’s motivated himself, he wanted to go to NZ and he spent a great time with the Townleys. Ben and Lucy took really good care of him. I am thankful for that and I think Ben has contributed to his development a lot lately. For Liam to work with a different coach, you can see it has made a massive difference. It is many things not just because he went to NZ, I think because he got a year older, got a bit bigger, got a bit stronger then plus the trip to New Zealand.
I think it’s important not to over-push him. Because already he has a heavy backpack on his back with the name Everts, so if I am going to put extra weight on his back and push him even more, it’s going to make it extra difficult for him. I try to look at it from the outside as much as possible and tell him my honest opinion and go from there. But he is anxious to go for results there year, he is very motivated, he would really like to take some wins because he hasn’t been winning a lot in his young career yet but he would like to – that’s what he tells me anyway!