MOTO-X » 25 June 2004
Preview – Grand Prix of Belgium.
The second of three grands prix to be held in Belgium this year - after Zolder (the GP of Flanders) and before Namur (the GP of Wallonie) - this weekend's Neeroeteren based event will be the 'home grand prix' for championship leader Stefan Everts.
Born in Bree (10kms north of Neeroeteren) then living in Maaseik (7kms east) for many years before moving to Monaco, Everts can truly count on local knowledge and more support than ever for the tenth round of the 2004 season.
With 46 world titles and 466 GP wins since the first edition of the Motocross world championship, Belgium is way ahead of all other countries – nearest rival in terms of world titles, Sweden, having 'just' sixteen – with René Baeten, Gaston Rahier, André Malherbe, Roger De Coster, Eric Geboers or Joel Robert some of the twelve past champions who brought back at least one title (and usually more) for their country.
31 Belgian have won a GP, but star among the stars is undoubtedly Everts, who has stood on the top step of the podium now less than 77 times since his first appearance in 1989.
Although he hasn't taken a pole position this year, the factory Yamaha star has dominated the MX1 class so far, leading 113 laps (compared to 61 for Mickael Pichon), winning nine heats (Cedric Melotte, Brian Jorgensen and Pichon have only won two) and five GPs (Melotte, Pichon, Jorgensen and Josh Coppins have won one).
Finishing all the races – except the opening round in Zolder – on the podium means Everts is also by far the most consistent rider and currently has the championship under control with a strong lead of 102 points, the equivalent of two GPs.
Winner of the last two events in France and Italy, Everts will be looking to take three wins in arrow this Sunday at the circuit where he first appeared on a Motocross bike more than twenty years ago.
Main rivals eager to spoil Stefan's party will be Coppins, Pichon, Melotte and Steve Ramon and with only twenty championship points between Coppins in second and Ramon in fifth all will be desperate to break away.
Another Belgian, Kevin Strijbos, claimed his first heat win in Italy two weeks ago and will be joined on a factory 450 Suzuki by Tanel Leok for the first time this weekend, while Honda mounted Jorgensen and KTM's Kenneth Gundersen (returning from a knee injury) will be also looking for a good result.
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