Interview: Harry Everts on his career plus Stefan, Liam, Jett Lawrence and much more!
We spoke to four-time world champ, Harry Everts, about his career, Joel Robert, Stefan winning ten world titles, Liam, Jett Lawrence, Jorge Prado, Jeffrey Herlings, Jago Geerts and Tom Vialle in a wide-ranging interview with a man who has seen and experienced it all in the sport from every angle.
Read or listen below.
Harry Everts, you have been to a lot of MXoN, what are your best memories of this event as a rider?
Ohhh, so many! At the Trophy des Nations, I think I was picked 8 or 9 times and we won 7 times at the MXDN I was also picked five times and won two times. My son after also won many times and now my grandson is coming has already (made the team) fantastic.
You have see this whole sport since it starts, who stands out as the best riders you have seen race or raced against?
For myself, when I was riding it was Joel Robert. Joel was my hero. My uncle, Jeff Davison too but after that it was Joel Robert, he was number one for me.
He looked a very natural talent even from old videos I have seen, very natural and stylish on the bike even though it was the older style bikes. What did he do so well?
Joel at that time was a natural talent. He had everything for himself. He picked me up, gave a bike, Puch, he make the frame and sent me over to the US in 1970 and, after that, I go to Puch. There, I make (win) my (first) world championship and after that I go to Suzuki and win three times more. That was my life in the motocross.
DId you learn a lot from him?
Yeah, he was my hero and he picked me up. He told me some tips like everybody did, you have to do it by yourself but open your eyes and see a rider doing what he does, but you have to learn by yourself. You need somebody next to you but the most important is yourself.
Did you ride the Trans AMA series? Was that a big race series at the time?
In ’74/75 one race I was second, one race I won. For me it was like training. I go to the US with the team, with all the big riders from Europe. It was the best, it was something special when you are young.
Did you see the Americans getting better each year you came over?
When I was there at that time the Americans were not that… some of them were getting better and better. After that they got better and better. But still today, when you take the European riders out from the USA, the Australian riders out – America is not such a big (deep) field, at the top.
What do you think the European riders have done of the last 10+ years to elevate themselves to be the fastest in teh world again?
You go today to Californa and the tracks just stays dry, dry, dry – Americans are fast, fast, fast! But when it’s raining and many things changing, it’s a different story. I remember at Foxhill with Stefan, it was not possible for them (US). And also here (Red Bud 2018) it was raining and they were also not good, I think the French won.
You won four world titles, did you ever think Stefan would win ten? Was that ever a goal you had? I know you worked closely with him, to see your son win ten world titles, that must be amazing.
You never think before. You want to see your son win his first Grand Prix, that is already winning something. Then you win one more Grand Prix, then one more, then he becomes world champion, and you think ah good. Then one more, one more. And then he passed me (in titles) and it was more and more (didn’t mind Stefan beating his title haul) – I wanted him to win 20! Then he wins three races in one day, then he wins 100 GP and he becomes ten-time world champion. That is something special.
His riding style, in America more riders are starting to stand up now on the balls of their feet but Stefan was doing that when he was a teenager in the 1990s. Did you coach him to do that because his technique and balance was always perfect, that’s probably why he was able to win ten titles!
He did it by himself. I was always standing up because of my Polio, I did not want to use my leg, this is why I was standing so much on the bike. When it was mud race, I was always happy because I always stand up and with Stefan, he always did it by himself, I never taught him to stand up. Okay, when Liam started Stefan put him in a good position on the bike, because Stefan rode so easy and Liam does the same, like papa.
Just on Liam, his progression in the last two years has been fast, he now has a factory ride next yea, you must be really exicted to see his progression and how fast he is at the minute!
At the moment yes, the days before here he was really good. He has to be better but I think he will get better, he is not complete at the moment. He needs more technique in some places, I think he needs to be stronger himself and on the technique.
Do you think he will feel more pressure next year in a factory team or because he has grown up with pressure he will be fine?
A factory rider will be more adjusted to you, so that is not a problem. He has to be building up slowly like he does now and not go over the limit and that’s the most important.
If you lined up all the greatest riders that you have seen from Joel Robert to Stefan, yourself, Ricky Carmichael, Stewart, Herlings, Cairoli.. all these top guys (and more) who do you think would win in a race or championship, who is the best of the best in your eyes?
Of course, it’s my son. Yes, he’s my son but he was a special rider. When you are ten-time world champion and 101 Grand Prix. He stopped when he was World Champion don’t forget. At Matterley Basin at the MXoN, he wanted to stop. I said, ‘why are you stopping?!’ He could have won another world title, 100%, but he stopped like a real world champion.
He has said you were hard on him because you saw his talent…
No, it was nothing to do with talent. When I started riding I had nothing, I had to do everything by myself, not much help, I was born with Polio, people made jokes with me when I was in school because I had a very bad leg. Everything from my grandfather, my uncle, my family I wanted to be a champion and I did everything myself. With Stefan coming it was easier but I wanted him to do it like I had to do it, that was not the talent. He had the talent for himself but to make him hard was a different thing.
You can have talent and be nothing. You can be the best rider here and if you are not training you will never be a champion. Some people say yeah, give me a factory bike and I will be a champion, no, you have to be ready for that, that is the difference for me.
And that’s that’s what made him be ten time world champ? The mind, heart and determination?
Joel had 50 GP wins (the record), Stefan was coming to 40 then 45 and he thought I can pass Joel and then it was 60, 70, 80, 90, 100. For me it was like normal, we win again and again and then go home.
The younger generation, Jett Lawrence rides quite like Stefan on the pegs…
I know Jett when he was coming to Belgium, I saw Jett riding for the first time in Lommel with his brother I go direct to Lommel and watch and go, ‘wow, he will be the new one – same with Prado.’ He was coming to my school when he was 12 years old, and I went direct to KTM because I worked for KTM, and said, ‘we need this guy.’ And we take him and today he’s still here (with KTM group).
Prado and Jett are they to two most technical guys maybe Tom Vialle?
Jett I saw in Belgium, we were together at Suzuki, I go many times training with the Suzuki boys his father and Jett, he has it himself, he has everything that he needs to have.
Do you think him and Prado can go on to be the best guys in the future or who do you see coming up after Herlings?
Prado he has some problems this year, I don’t know why. He was not the same as before, I hope he will be better next year. We will see. Jeffrey he has to come back, one year out, you don’t know what will happen after.
What are your thoughts on Jeffrey, he is amazingly fast, he gets hurt quite a lot, but his speed is really good. What are thoughts on his speed, style, technique – can he better?
Jeffrey Herlings has not that much technique but is a very strong guy that’s what makes him so strong but technically he is not that special. But he has everything, in the deep sand nobody can beat Jeff, he wants to win, in the big mud he is a different rider but in total he is very good rider, don’t forget otherwise he cannot win so many Grand Prix.
Finally, Jago Geerts, he’s riding this weekend (and went on to be on Eli Tomac’s pace) but he had a very tough end to the world championship. With Liam he is Belgium’s next hope for a world championship, have you spoken to him or given him advice on how to get over such a big defeat?
Do you think he can go on to be world champion? He has the speed and talent.
He has everything, but you saw this year he had everything, but he did not finish it himself. What else do you have to say? I was hoping he would become world champion, Jago, because he is a good rider and this and that but misses some things. He is a very good rider, but he is not finishing it. He had some bad luck but some other guys also had bad luck.
I think he must be a world champion. I see a big mistake in that second heat in Turkey, I see a mistake from Jago in front of me and I think there he lost the title because the lap after they crashed together. But the lap before he was already in front, and he made a mistake. Okay, this is racing. I was also racing for first position in the last Grand Prix, and it is not easy in the mind, four or five riders could have been world champion. I said to myself you have to be calm, calm, calm, and yeah, okay, I was lucky.
Tom Vialle, who won is very good under pressure, is that the main difference between him and Jago?
No, Tom Vialle, there was a moment he was giving up a bit, then he came back again, and you can be better coming from the back to the front don’t forget. Like Stefan one time he was 72 points behind the leader, and he said I can be world champion and he came back to be world champion, I will never forget. So, when you are coming closer and closer, then you can make a big mistake.
How do you think Tom will adapt to America? Do you think he should have gone to America or stayed in the MXGP and went 450?
He goes to America, he will do well. He is a good supercross rider in the past I heard, so he will do good. He has a winning mentality the boy.
Interview: Jonathan McCready
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