Stefan Everts has clinched his tenth and final world championship before retirement with a perfect performance in his home Belgian Grand Prix, held at the famous Namur circuit.
On the brink of history, Everts was cheered on by a willing 30,000 partisan crowd and the Intur Sports Yamaha team had both of their riders flying formation for the first two laps of the opening moto as Cédric Melotte grabbed the holeshot and led Stefan. But the champion soon took control and enacted a familiar scene of drawing away from his pursuers. The second race was a repeat with Everts owning the race by forging a blistering speed in the formative stages.
With a lead of 168 points over Suzuki's Kevin Strijbos, Everts cannot be caught in the three remaining grands prix due in Ireland, Holland and France. Stefan was joined for the emotional Namur podium celebrations by his 2007 replacement Josh Coppins, second overall on Sunday, and Suzuki's Steve Ramon (third).
The Belgian's tenth world championship comes after a stellar eighteen-year career in which he has been king of 125, 250, 500, MXGP and MX1 classes. Everts' other achievements include the record for the most grand prix victories and winning three different GP classes on the same day.
But Stefan won't be backing off just yet; Namur marked his 99th GP victory and he now has three chances left to reach a magical 100 before hanging up his helmet. With Everts unbeaten so far this year, few would bet against the #72 (whose race number will also be retired at the end of this season) from achieving his 'ton'.
"What a great day," beamed Everts. "I never dared dream of becoming world champion here at Namur. It has always been a very special place with a special atmosphere. It is a unique track that is hard and demanding. Both races went pretty good. At one point there was a difficult moment for me in each moto because the terrain was so bumpy, slippery and so rough. I had to be really careful because this is one of the hardest circuits in the world and you can only really appreciate it if you get out there and try forty minutes. The motos worked out well though and I am so happy for my 99th victory and the championship. I had such an exciting feeling going out on the track and unfortunately it is my last time here but I cannot think of a better way to go out. What else can I say?"
"It has been a fantastic day and a great conclusion to the season, even if it isn't over yet," added team racing manager Carlo Rinaldi. "It was a familiar GP for us. Good starts and controlling the motos; Stefan may have had some more pressure than usual but he did not show it. What is unbelievable is not that Stefan wins, but how he does it; victory is all he wants. Yamaha is doing a great job. The new bike gave an extra boost to Stefan and with his motivation in his final season it was the perfect tool for a perfect job."
"There is not much I can say as you can imagine," admitted team manager Michele Rinaldi. "I think Stefan managed something that not even he was expecting this season. He did a fantastic job and it even seemed too easy at times. We have had a great atmosphere in the team and he has won everything so far so his decision to finish his career with Yamaha was 100% correct. Our bike has never stopped this year and we have done a lot of work; the result of which can be seen on the track. We could not have imagined a season like this."
"This is amazing and I think it will take a long time before people really appreciate what has happened," stated Laurens Klein Koerkamp, head of racing for Yamaha Motor Europe. "Ten titles for Stefan is unbelievable and for us six titles in six years is also something incredible. Technically we have had almost no problems at all in that period and for that we must give a big thank you to all the guys in the team. Success is about the rider and the bike but it is also about the guys who prepare the bike. The team have won all those titles but still remain so motivated to win. Overall this is a super day for everyone connected with the team and Yamaha."