Interview: Stefan Everts
Ten-time world motocross champion Stefan Everts has been at the helm of the Suzuki MXGP team for just 18 months, but he is already moulding the team to his liking and has the same burning ambition for success as he did as a rider.
Increased media coverage, youngsters Hunter Lawrence and Bas Vaessen impressing in their MX2 GP debut seasons, plus Jeremy Seewer contending for the MX2 title means the future is in good hands.
Add to that, teenage talent Arminas Jasikonis, who was drafted in by Everts last season and is making brilliant strides on the new RMX450 in his first full season in MXGP.
Stefan and the team are clearly making rapid progress in his goal to bring Suzuki back to the sharp end of world championship motocross.
We caught up with Suzuki’s main man in Italy to talk about the changes he has made to the team, his thoughts on his young riders, and his view on the first Herlings/Carioli battle in sand!
It was a good weekend for your team. Jeremy Seewer got the overall win in MX2 and rode really well, especially in that first moto, what are your thoughts on his day?
Yes Jeremy every weekend has a good speed, and the speed to win. We won the overall which is good and we took seven points on Jonass but it could have been more. If we really want to go for this championship we need to take the maximum points every GP, Jeremy made that little mistake in the beginning of the moto, that’s a pity, a pity to see that. Now a GP less to go, seven points is good but it could have been more.
Bas did pretty good, especially second moto. In the first moto he was a bit too careful in the beginning but in the second he attacked more in the first laps and he held on really good, just no podium for but it was good for him and his confidence.
This is Jeremy’s first real year in the title hunt. How do you feel he is handling it and do you feel you are able to give him advice given your experience in those situations?
I feel he has been going through a lot of different phases at the moment, it’s not easy for him. It’s never easy to win your first championship, it’s one of the most difficult ones, I thought. It’s not easy, there are many things he has learned, he has already made many mistakes, those 25 points in kegums that made it really tough. It was a big gift for Jonass and it set us really far back in the title chase. But that’s racing, that’s the competition and that’s the fun of it – we keep on fighting!
Arminas Jaskinos had a good day yesterday and led early in race two and tried to stay with Herlings and Cairoli, you must be very pleased with his progress?
Yeah, I noticed already last year he was a good sand rider. He put in some good motos in Lommel and Assen last year. We have been working a lot on his strength, he needs to get better on the hard pack. He is slowly making good progress, he is making big steps on the sand, he has a lot of raw speed. it’s just a matter of getting him fitter.
But in nine months you cannot do everything, he went from a pre-pro rider to a fully pro rider and you cannot make that step in nine months. it’s going to take a bit of time and I know that. I just push him that he goes for the maximum every time he goes riding, that he pushes himself. it is a big change for the boy, it is a whole new world. He is doing good, we have seen some nice things already. That is his second holehost, not officially but it was first for us! It shows that our new RMZ450 is a good bike and we just need the rider to put his package together and it ( the bike) works.
I think we will see a lot of good things if he can keep working like this, if we can get him fitter and fitter he is going to be able to run with the top guys.
And how is he as a character? Is he easy to work with?
Yeah, he is alright, I think it is important that he keeps the trust in the program that we guide him in. It’s important that he keeps faith in that. We saw this weekend that what we have been doing so far is putting him towards the front, it’s a matter of more hard work, a lot of hard work and then he can finish on the podium.
What were your thoughts on the battle between Herlings and Cairoli today?
You see who the King is eh? You see who is in control and that is Cairoli. Herlings had to brake check him in the second moto there, it was quite cool – payback time (for moto one). But Tony was a step ahead and he got him again in the next turn so you see who the champ is.
You were known for your sand speed too, would you have liked to have been battling them today in your prime?
Yeah in my primetime I would have liked to battle with them, sure why not?! At this moment (age) no – it’s tough out there! I know how tough it is mentally to go through this heat especially at the end of each moto. You see guys crashing but the fittest make it the best. Cairoli, you see how fit he is. Herlings he passed out, he went a little too deep.
Just on the new team set-up, on the media-side there is a lot of access for the media and fans now with the videos and Facebook etc, and how do you feel the team has grown under your leadership?
Yeah I put straight away a lot of focus on that side (media) and I want to do even more. I want to put out a good image for sponsors and especially for Suzuki, that is who we work for. We try to be good and try to set a new pace of communication to get sponsors. It’s very tough these days to get sponsors in.
I am working to bring young riders in the team and work on our communication and social media – I think it’s very important. We try to set a new pace like we did with our overseas set-up.
Hunter Lawrence is missing today with injury, but he has been very impressive this season, he’s very young and enthuastic and seems to be a great signing for Suzuki. What are your thoughts on him?
I’m very happy that we had the chance to sign him. That was the reason we had three riders this season (in MX2), next year we will go back to two in MX2. I didn’t want to lose the chance of signing this kid, I really have a big belief in him. He has showed already some impressive rides and he is very anxious to do better than that. He has been very disappointed in a lot of races but in some ways he should be happy, it’s just a learning year for him. I think is sitting at home now in very bad humour watching the race on TV. I like his mentality and I think for next year we will have a very good rider who can race for the top three.
So two riders in MX2 next season, in MXGP will you have two or three riders?
No, we have already signed Jeremy Seewer for MXGP in ’18 and ’19 and Jasikonis I have confirmed with him that we will keep him next year. Basically I signed him for two years but then we had the possibility to stop the agreement after this year if he did not make the progress but he has made a lot of good progress. So it is just what I was dreaming of to have a really young team with 20 year old kids. He (Jasikonis) will be 20 in September and Jeremy 23 next year so we have a long future ahead hopefully with these guys towards nice results in the future.
Jeremey is a very technical rider, do you think the 450 will suit him well?
Yeah, we have already been training on the 450. He did an ADAC race a couple of weeks ago which he won. He loves the 450, he has been riding it really good. I think it will work out for him for sure.