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Preview – Grand Prix of Ireland
9 September 2004
The penultimate round of the 2004 FIM Motocross World Championship, the Grand Prix of Ireland, will almost certainly see world champions crowned in both the MX1 and MX2 classes with Stefan Everts and Ben Townley needing just a few points to secure their titles.
Ireland has hosted a couple of GP's in the past, but has never been a regular location for the world championships. Three 500 GPs (in Killinchy and Cork), three 250 GPs (Killinchy and Cork) and seven 125 events (all in Killinchy) have been organized in Northern Ireland, but for the first time Ballykelly (located 20km west of Londonderry) will host a GP this weekend.
Most of the riders will never have raced or practiced on the track, and so will get their first taste of the layout on Friday, during first free practice - as traditional in Ireland, race day will be on Saturday rather than Sunday.
Both Everts and Townley will arrived with a lot of confidence in Ireland, as they only need a few points to achieve their world championship goal. Leading Mickael Pichon by 93 points, Everts will be crowned with a thirteenth position or better in the first moto.
"I will not go to Ireland just to secure some points, I will be there to win the event," claimed Stefan before leaving his home in Monaco. "For sure if I was not champion after the first moto I will race the second one for the title, but as always my goal is to win another GP."
Winner of six GPs so far, Yamaha rider Everts naturally doesn't want Pichon (who has won five GP wins) to take more GPs wins than him this season.
However, Pichon will surely be the Belgian's toughest rival, and will arrive in Ireland fresh from a Supercross victory last weekend in his native France. Nevertheless, both Pichon and Everts are expecting strong opposition from Josh Coppins, the new British Champion; living in the UK and racing for a British team, Josh has will surely be particular strong this Saturday.
For MX2 rider Townley it's an even easier situation; he only needs a seventeenth position to get his first world title. Although BT has suffered several DNFs this season (six including two in the last two GPs) he has benefited from the MX2 competition being much more open than the premier-class.
The Champ KTM star has taken an incredible 17 heat wins (from 28 starts) and led 271 of the 525 races laps. Ben has also won ten (of fourteen) qualifying races and seven GPs.
The Kiwi's team-mate, Tyla Rattray, is his nearest rival but Townley needs just four-points to put the world championship out of reach of the South African two-stroke rider.
Meanwhile, Mickael Maschio (winner in Germany), Alessio Chiodi (who could have won the last two events if he hadn't hit mechanical trouble in the second heat), Claudio Federici (who lost the German GP with a crash in each race), Sébastien Pourcel (who got his first GP podium two weeks ago) and Antonio Cairoli are likely to join Rattray as Townley's main rivals for victory.
But many suspect it will be Brits Stephen Sword (now recovered from his big fall in Gaildorf) and Carl Nunn (second in the British Championship) who will provide BT with his greatest challenge this weekend.
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