Josh Coppins won Sunday's Grand Prix of Northern Ireland to end Stefan Everts' unbeaten 2006 run – and at least delay the ten-times world champion's 100th victory celebrations.
The 29-year-old Kiwi, whose 2006 title aspirations were ended by a shoulder injury even before round one, qualified on pole position at Desertmartin in Saturday's timed practice session and looked confident with the set-up of his CAS Honda.
The first MX1 moto got underway with Suzuki's Steve Ramon taking an early lead before Everts and Coppins soon moved to the front. Coppins fought hard to keep his Belgian rival within striking distance and hounded Everts right to the chequered flag with less than a second separating the two.
Despite the loss, Coppins could take the overall with victory in race two and started perfectly – grabbing the holeshot and building a three second lead over Everts. But the Belgian legend, who will retire at the end of this season and hand his factory Yamaha seat to Coppins, took advantage of a fallen rider on the whoop section to take the lead.
However Coppins fought back and dived for the lead three laps later, then gradually pulled away from the #72. Battling flat out, the pair lapped up to third position and the backmarkers added to an already tense face-off. Entering the last ten minutes Everts eased his speed, unable to match Coppins' pace and Josh became only the third rider to prize a moto victory away from Everts this season - and the only man to defeat Stefan overall.
"What an unbelievable weekend!" smiled an elated Coppins. "With such a bad start to the season I had to set new goals and one of them was to win a GP before the end of the year and I achieved that today. I had a decent first moto but I found that some of the backmarkers were probably not used to having someone with Stefan when he comes through, so they were just heading back onto the line and blocking me.
"In the second race I gave everything I had because I wanted that win. I had the holeshot and pushed really hard. I had a lead of three seconds but I knew he would come back at me. I slowed down and started breathing a little bit better. I followed him and watched his lines and I knew I would be able to get back in front. Once I had the lead I saw the pit-board tell me that the time between us was increasing. After nine seconds I knew there was no way he could come back so I just kept pushing and was so happy to win!" concluded Coppins, who has finished on the podium in all six GPs since his return from injury.
"What a day! Josh took the race right to Stefan and we are over-the-moon with the result," added Honda Europe's Off-road co-ordinator Roger Harvey. "It looked close in the first race and the second was phenomenal. The greatest respect to Josh for taking on Stefan around a track as rough as that."
Everts was visibly disappointed to see his unbeaten run come to a close - but has every intention of winning his 100th GP in the two remaining rounds.