Interview: Stefan Everts on Jett Lawrence, Liam Everts, Jago Geerts and MXoN memories

We caught up with Stefan Everts about riding Maggiora last weekend, get his view Jett Lawrence and his AMA success, son Liam Everts and his strong MX2 season and his personal MXoN memories – including that pass on James Stewart at Matterley Basin!

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A week ago you were riding at Maggiora, standing up and getting the applause of the fans again, it must have brought back some memories for you, how was that experience?

It was very cool. it has been a while since I rode Maggiora. Actually, in my career it wasn’t that much I rode the Maggiora track but every time it was really cool. I had some of my worst GPs there and some of my best GPs, a bit up and down, but okay, after I retired in 2006, it was really cool to do a few laps around the track.

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How did you find the track, obviously Liam was racing there, were you able to see or feel anything that he was going through in those couple of laps?

The track was in parts rough and bumpy. After all the rain we had on Saturday the track was looking really good, the ruts were nice, the track was good. It is always hard to pass in Maggiora, very hard but overall the track was good.

And you did a lap with Cairoli, your last race was here (Matterley MXoN) in 2006, and you both won the motos, it was nice to you both on track again nearly 20 years later, especially with that crowd, it was really loud!

Yeah, it’s true. It’s been a while since we were together on the track. Tony is still riding a lot you can see that, I just do a little bit of enduro riding in the winter but no so much, I enjoy riding a little bit but not too much anymore.

Are you still able to ride okay with your feet?

It’s okay, I have to be careful with braking because on my right foot all the the toes are amputated and that’s the side of the brake. I have to be a bit cautious and not go too fast into the turns but it’s not about going fast anymore, it’s just about having a good feeling on the bike.

You were standing up a lot (in your career) and anyone that watched GPs from about 1990 saw you ride like that. There is a lot being said about Jett Lawrence in America about his style, standing up a lot, as if it’s the first time they have seen it! Do you feel like everything positive they are saying about Jett is what they should have been saying about you back in the 90s? They are finally realising how good your technique is by looking at Jett!

Yeah, what Jett has been doing is very impressive and also Hunter. What Jett showed this year winning all the motos in motocross is very cool. Yeah, we could see at a young age that one day he would be very good and strong. To see him that strong I am very proud of him and the family, everyone has been working hard on that and it’s very nice to see them very successful being in America.

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Yeah they are talking about this, the technique that I already had in the 90s! But it’s cool that they still recognise it so I am happy.

And it shows what you were doing then still works now!

It will always work. For me to ride in that way is a lot easier, you can absorb the bumps when you stand up in way. It’s just a matter of having the balance, it helps a lot, especially in deep ruts.

Did you expect Jett to be this good this soon? Only 19 and went undefeated in his first year on a 450.

No, I knew he would be good but no-one knows how fast it goes (the process). To see him move up to the 450 class, I didn’t expect he would do it so quick. To be that good so fast on the 450, usually you need one or two years to get hold of the bike and to get strong enough but Jett has a strong body and you could see he adapted really fast and easy to that.

Image: Align

Mentally, he is very strong. Did you see that when you were working with him as child? Or has he just grown and that’s just the way he is, mentally strong under pressure?

I think the positive side in his behavior is he is a happy boy, he doesn’t care so much. He just does what he likes to do, rides his motorcycle. It’s what I have been telling Liam a lot, for him it’s a tough situation with the name and expectations and all that and also from himself. Jett is a big example for him, just be relaxed and enjoy yourself, don’t think too much just go out and have fun.

You’ve lived it where the guy who wins in America and the world champion are coming together at ther MXoN. It feels like everyone wants to beat Jett, even Ken Roczen, I am sure Prado and these guys want to do that too. What are your expectations for Ernee? It’s like the battle of the champions!

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I look at it this year as a team race. I am just cheering on team Belgium, we have a really strong team. I don’t think it’s about who is going to win individually, it’s who is going to win as a team, that’s how the Nations always has been. There is some individual prestige but in the end the big winners are who wins with the team. I won here in Matterley but we didn’t win as a team so at the end I was happy to win individually and beat Stewart but I was disappointed we couldn’t win as a team, that’s actually what the MXoN is all about.

You and your dad have worked with Jorge Prado, Jett Lawrence, Hunter Lawrence and all are champions this year, and all will be riding at Ernee, will there be a pride at watching the level they have got to and all riding with great technique?

Yeah we are going to have a big reunion, with some good gin and tonic! No, yes of course, it will be nice to see everyone together. We have worked in the past with a lot of great champions, also my father and myself, it’s nice to see what they become. Some, they didn’t make it, some they did make it and it’s always nice to be a little part of that and look back and see that we worked in the past and how successful they are today.

The guys make it, what do they have compared to the guys that don’t? Is it more mind or work ethic?

It’s the whole package the whole package needs to fit together. It’s not just about being fast on the motorcycle, you also have to be smart, ambition, determination – there are so many things you know? Be very intelligent when you race at the right moments, it’s the whole package.

Your MXoN memories, we are at Matterley Basin today, that is probably one of your highlights, talk us through the stand out moments and maybe some of the tougher moments during your MXoN performances.

The toughest one was how we lost a couple of times, especially the Nations in 92 with Australia. I got no moose from Dunlop and I had a flat tire, got a puncture and lost the Nations, like we lost in Valkenswaard when Geukens and Bervoets crashed in the last moto on the first lap. We got second and second and every time a big disappointment.

But then Sverpec was the time for us to win and it was a great moment, a great feeling after so many years trying to win as a team, it was cool. Foxhill was a special one and Matterley but Matterely we didn’t win as a team but I won individually. Kevin had a crash and we missed out by a few points. The crowd that year in Matterley was still one of the biggest crowds I ever raced in front of in Europe. In the States it was a bit normal when you go to the supercross stadiums. But in Europe, it was massive, massive, unbelievable! When you look at the pictures today you see the crowd EVERYWHERE, packed and packed it was really cool.

Did you feel nervous that day? it was your last race. I remember walking past (in the morning) and you your blowing something up for Liam, and think you were doing dad duties ahead of the the last/biggest race of his life!

I wasn’t nervous. I was more stressed because we had a big fight with Yamaha because we were going to do the announcement that I would move to KTM to a new job for me. It was a big discussion still going on on Saturday! So I was more on stress with the discussion than to race. On Saturday we did the announcement that I would move to KTM and on Sunday the stress was off and I just went racing and enjoyed myself.

That pass on Stewart, he still sometimes eludes to it on TV, the other week he said he can’t talk about being passed on the outside because it happened to him! Do you remember what was going through your head or describe passing him around the outside, I have never never really heard your view (of that moment) and did you feel you had him at that point in the race?

I didn’t plan. You can’t plan anything in the race you just see after the first turn where you are and then you start to go racing and try to be smart and make the difference. I was riding good, better than on Saturday. Saturday I struggled a bit, I hadn’t been riding a lot the weeks before but Sunday I was back in shape.

I was just going good, the track was so nice to ride, those deep ruts everywhere and that’s how I like it and just use my technique, standing up on the pegs. And it just happened there, around the outside, he was sitting down going so slow into the turn, I was like, ‘come on!’ It’s still a legendary pass, people still talk about it today. There’s two things people remember that’s Foxhill in the mud, going up the hill when everyone got stuck and Matterley Basin the pass on Stewart, it was one of the biggest moments, especially for the English fans, they still remember it.

And it’s called Everts corner now as well!

And the best part was in 2019 when we raced the EMX125 with Liam, he did the exact same thing in the same turn, that year was also a bit muddy, it was cool.

Some of those earlier Nations you dropped down to a 125, I think in 95 and 96 at Jerex and you were 250 world champion! How was that going back down? From what I can remember you were really quick and beat Lamson in 95 but how does a 250 world championship go back down to a 125 and adjust to that mentally and how to ride the bike on race day?

I had to do it. Someone had to do it, to have a strong team. I was the one who had to go back. For me it wasn’t the most fun to go and do it. First of all, we didn’t have the best bikes at that time especially with the Honda in 1996. So I struggled at the beginning with the 125, especially revving it, keeping the 125 in the revs where the power is. At one point in 97 I said no more 125s, I will just race my class and see where we end up.

1994 there is a clip of you on the old Motovision video on the 500 Kawasaki and you looked awesome on it, but you didn’t get on the team and I still don’t know why that was! Had you been told?

I never got the answer either! We went riding at Motoland and I was a lot faster than Jacky. Jacky was on the team for the 500 class, but at the end they still chose Jacky and I don’t know why. I had just lost the 250 world championship one or two weeks before in Gaildorf, I was pretty down but I was still motivated to go race the Nations at my best that I always had been doing. But still, it was Jacky and unfortunately they didn’t make the podium that year. All the other years that I was on the team we made to the podium.

For Britain it was a great year, but we will never know! Unfortunately I only rode a 500 two-stroke once and that was at Namur, that went well and after that four-strokes came and we never rode 500 two-strokes.

Did you enjoy riding the 500?

Yeah, I loved it. It was awesome.

Moving unto Liam, he has had a pretty amazing year with 3 GP wins. Maggiora obviously didn’t go too well, he had that big crash and it was pretty scary. For the championship it was bad but to see the heart he had to get back on after how hard he hit the ground was a big tick in his box for the future, because you can’t teach that heart, it doesn’t matter how much talent or money you have, when you take that hit and your championship hopes are over, to get back on, it shows he has it deep down.

“That’s Liam. I have seen him do things like that before. He will never give up, he will always ride to the finish line when he can. He had a hard hit, he had no air in his lungs, so it took him a while to get up but he got up, it was lucky he could get up, he could have had some broken bones.

“He finished the moto. I was impressed. I thought he would pull out, I think everyone would pull out. Your chance for the title has gone, to still continue, he was very brave to do that. It shows his determination and the will he has, I’m proud of that.”

Did his season surprise you? He was in the title hunt until last weekend, first year in a factory team, he out did what I was expecting, he really came on strong halfway through the year.

To be honest, we were hoping to go for a top five. We had Jago being injured and Simon Laengenfelder they were out and were really strong contenders for the top three along with Andrea. But I mean, being healthy is also a part of racing. He came through really well after a few GPs, he was consistent. I never expected him to win three GPs and having eight podiums. To be in that title chase at one point, we never expected to be in that position so, maybe it hit him a little bit last Saturday and he struggled a bit on Saturday (at Maggiora) not riding at his best, Sunday a little bit better and before he went down he was trying really, really hard to catch Benistant and I never seen him try that hard. That he went down like this, it is very rare he goes down that hard, this was a gif hit. He took a lot of lessons out of it, out of the whole season actually. It will only make him stronger for the future.

Just on Jago. You had a couple of tough world championship defeats yourself through injury and one thing or another. Jago has lost two world titles because someone crashed in front of him you could say. This year to get injured twice and still come back, what are your thoughts?

Yeah, i think the whole paddock is sorry for him. But to be sorry doesn’t bring him anything. I am surprised how he takes it and how he deals with it. He just has to continue and move on normally, he should have won two championships, last year he was in the running for the title and this year so it was not for him. He was very unlucky. He always fights back and, if you see how fast he came back after his crash in France, impressive. Coming back to the lead and again in the title chase and then again he has been stopped. But that is racing and he needs to pull himself over it and look at the future, and that’s what I think he’s doing. Even if he didn’t win the title, I still have a lot of respect for him how he has been racing and how he deals with it, for sure.

Finally, MXoN for Belgium, all MX2 guys all U23 but a really strong team, all GP winner, what are you expecting from the team and does Liam know what bike he is riding yet?

Next week they will try out the 350 and see how it will go. I will expect it to be good, it will suit him a lot the way rides, it will be better for his riding style. They have a really strong team, I believe they can be on the podium, there’s really good chance. Of course the Nations is always a funny race, a lot of strange things can happen, but I can see them finishing on the podium.

Sacha Coenen is coming through as well, it’s more like when you raced with Joel, Bervoets, Patrick Caps, Strijbos, Ramon, is it nice to see Belgium maybe reaching that level again?

It shows that with these young kids on the start line with the team. It shows the next ten we have a strong team for the nations. The potential is for sure there to make a lot of podiums in the future and hopefully one day they can win as team.

Interview: Jonathan McCready