Team USA won the Motocross of Nations, for a record breaking 17th time, at Matterley Basin in Great Britain on Sunday - despite American riders failing to win any of the three races.

Instead, retiring ten-times world champion Stefan Everts proved the individual star of the show - on his very final top flight appearance - winning both his races, but even the legendary Belgium couldn't prevent the more consistent US team taking overall honours.

A fantastic 85,000 weekend spectators filled the Matterley site to create an exciting atmosphere, but verged on the point of overwhelming the venue - and particularly its road access - due to the unprecedented numbers. The track itself was rougher than when first used at June's British Grand Prix, with larger jumps, while any dust was extinguished by heavy rain on Friday and again on Sunday morning.

Related Articles

The fans got just what they wanted at the start of the first race, consisting of the MX1 (450cc) and MX2 (250cc) classes, when Everts powered into an early lead over American superstar James Stewart, New Zealand's former world champion Ben Townley and young US ace Ryan Villopoto. Everts and Stewart looked set for a thrilling duel, but Stewart soon lost the front of his Kawasaki on a downhill left hander - forcing a comeback ride from seventh to second, some 12secs behind Everts, with Villopoto an impressive third in front of reigning MX2 World champion Christophe Pourcel to be the top MX2 rider. Townley and team-mate Josh Coppins completed the top six.

Race two, between MX2 and the MX3 (Open class) categories, saw the flying Villopoto unexpectedly beaten by former world champion Antonio Cairoli, who had celebrated his 21st birthday the day before. With Italy out of overall victory contention, the race win was a massive prize for Cairoli - but he had to fight hard for it. Team USA's Ivan Tedesco, called up to replace the injured Ricky Carmichael, put his big 450 into an early lead from Christophe Pourcel, Townley and Villopoto with Cairoli just fifth.

Pourcel then lost control of his Kawasaki after getting sideways off a jump, handing second to Townley - but the kiwi was soon overtaken by AMA team-mate Villopoto. Ryan then made a mistake, landing on the trackside netting, and was lucky to keep control. That was the chance the charging Cairoli needed and he went on to catch and pass Tedesco - much to the delighted of the crowd. Villopoto and Townley also demoted Tedesco in the closing stages to make it three 250s at the front of the field, while Belgian Steve Ramon took top MX3 honours with fourth.

"I waited five or six laps to see the lines of Villopoto and Townley. I was close to Villopoto when he made a mistake and ran off the track," said Toni. "I really like this track and the fans were incredible when they were cheering me going to the lead."

After leading much of the race Tedesco eventually slipped to sixth after a late fall, but Belgium's hopes took a much greater knock when Kevin Strijbos, a disappointing eleventh in race one, crashed in the closing stages of race two and was forced to tearfully retire with his RMZ-250's wheels cocooned in trackside netting.

"The first race was not that good, I was just too slow so I decided to go for it in the second one and pushed really hard. On the last lap I made a mistake on the jump and crashed," sighed Strijbos. "I am disappointed that I could not have done better."

The scoring system allows the worst single score to be dropped, meaning five out of the six races results are counted, but Belgium now had two finishes outside the top ten while the USA's worst was Tedesco's still creditable sixth.

The final race of the day, combining MX1 and MX3, saw Everts and Stewart battling their way towards the front - while Italy's David Philippaerts stormed into an early lead, then fended off attacks from home star Billy Mackenzie (providing the British fans with a welcome excuse to cheer even louder) and New Zealand's Josh Coppins. Philippaerts foiled all attempts to pass him until Everts and Stewart arrived - the Belgian having recently ridden around the outside of Stewart - after which both shuffled past the KTM in quick succession.

Now it was a clean race for victory, but the effortless Everts simply rode away from on-edge Stewart and crossed the finish line nearly five seconds in front of the American, giving world championship motocross a memorable double over its AMA counterparts.

Philippaerts hung on for third, ahead of fellow MX1 rider Tanel Leok, while Ramon was again the highest placed MX3 rider, in fifth. Tedesco - who missed most of the outdoor season through injury - fell from his Suzuki again and only managed ninth, but the USA's overall win was never in doubt. In terms of individual honours, Everts won the MX1 (450cc) class with a perfect 1-1 sweep, Villopoto the MX2 (250cc) competition after 1-2 class finishes and Steve Ramon the MX3 (open) battle courtesy of his 1-1 class results.

"It was a pretty easy day," claimed Everts, who heads for retirement after an 18 year career in which he won 101 grands prix. "It was a great pity that Ricky didn't ride because I believe he would have pushed for the individual win. Anyway it has been a great race for me. I am very happy to end this way. As a team we were a bit unlucky with Kevin's bike problem and our chances might have been better if that had not happened; that's racing. I am always very motivated for this race. I think that was one of the biggest crowds at a motocross event I have seen. It is incredible and for sure I am going to miss this event."

Everts announced on Saturday that he will move into the position of race director with KTM next season, something that appears to have angered his Yamaha team.

"It's unfortunate that after an unbelievable successful six years the Yamaha - Everts relation has to come to an end," said Yamaha Intur Sports team manager Michele Rinaldi. "Yamaha has made a very good offer to Stefan to continue the relationship, which Stefan also admitted. But Yamaha was not prepared to make a similar position offer as KTM due to being differently organised and judging certain things differently. At the same time we are disappointed about the timing and the way the news was presented as we had agreed before with Stefan to lift it over the weekend."

Meanwhile, no-one knows what the individual outcome would have been if reigning AMA champion Carmichael had ridden against the on-fire Everts, but even without the record-breaking RC - who has beaten Everts at previous 'Nations events - the Americans were unstoppable as a team and finished seven points clear of Belgium in the overall standings. They may have lost all three battles, but they'd won the war:

"I think I rode well," said Stewart after his 2-2 finishes. "The first moto I had a slip up and I knew I needed to get as many points as I could. In the second moto I was late off the gate and then Stefan and me went at it. I was happy for the podium, it didn't matter what they did and to me it's all about the team and winning for the country. It feels good, I didn't do it myself, it's a whole team effort involving everyone behind the scenes."

"We came out with the trophy," began Villopoto (3-2). "I was behind Ivan in our (MX2/MX3) race and I jumped off the track! It was just a racing mistake, I just layed it over too far and I was lucky I didn't go down. I couldn't have done it without my team. I think it was good, a ton of people out there. It was mine and James's first Motocross of Nations and I hope to do it again next year."

"I had a good rhythm going but got a bit tired and tight towards the end," recalled former AMA Lites Supercross and Motocross champion Tedesco (6-9). "I have not had much bike time and missed the whole outdoor season so I did the best I could. I ended up falling and that cost me a couple of spots but it was good enough to win the trophy. It was a good weekend and I did what I had to do. This is the biggest race of the year and it is a great honour to come. I want to thank Ricky for giving me this opportunity. It sucks that he got hurt but the team believed in me and that we could come over here and win so I am glad to be a part of it."

Completing the 2006 'Nations podium were New Zealand, whose line-up of Townley, Coppins and Cody Cooper had punched well above their country's four million population to edge out Italy for the final rostrum position.

"Ben was just awesome today and he led us a team," conceded Coppins after his 6-8 race finishes. "It was a great result today. Great for New Zealand and great for our federation and the young guys back at home. I struggled in the first half of the first moto and then settled down and started to ride much better with some better lines. There were many good riders here today, we all wanted to do well and we all wanted to do well for our countries. We came together as a team and we have this result to show for it."

"It was a really good day for us. I had two really good starts in both moto's and had a great race with some pretty fast guys," declared Townley (5-3). "I think we were pretty lucky to get the starts today on our MX2 bikes and we were up front in both moto's right from the beginning and that made life easier for sure. It was awesome to come back here. I knew this event was going to be big and I couldn't wait to come here. Even though I was injured on the couch for most of the year I knew I would make it back for this event. It has been cool to see all the fans. Last years Nations was great but this year has been even better and obviously with our team being up on the podium. This is something I've always dreamed of: standing on the podium, holding the New Zealand flag. It's been great to have achieved that."

"I don't race GPs or anything this big but I race the national championships in New Zealand and Australia. The guys are really fast over here and I'm very happy to be on the podium!" smiled Cooper (17-13). "I'm hoping that I can get over to America or Europe one day and get on the pace over there. I've learnt a lot this weekend by watching guys like Stefan Everts, Ben and Josh."

At the end of the 60th edition of the Motocross of Nations, Youthstream president Giuseppe Luongo said: "After Ern?e, this event in Matterley Basin has confirmed that the Motocross of Nations is now one the greatest sports in the world. A race with such large spectator numbers can enter the record books with the best sport events ever. I would like to thank the FIM Motocross Commission and the FIM itself for all the support they gave us; all fans, riders, teams, FOX and all sponsors who joined us in such a thrilling adventure. Thanks to my staff as well: they have been working very hard to reach such a result. And last but not least, thanks to Stefan 'The King' who ended his career today in the way that made him the 'winningest' rider of all time."

The 2007 Motocross of Nations will be held at Budds Creek in the USA.

2006 Motocross of Nations:

Overall results - top ten:
1. USA - 15
2. Belgium - 22
3. New Zealand - 35
4. Italy - 37
5. France - 48
6. Great Britain - 55
7. Republic of South Africa - 59
8. Spain - 67
9. Estonia - 69
10. Finland - 78

Race 1 results (MX1/MX2):
1. Stefan Everts (BEL)
2. James Stewart (USA) +11.495secs
3. Ryan Villopoto (USA) +16.025secs
4. Christophe Pourcel (FRA) +28.089secs
5. Ben Townley (NZ) +38.522secs
6. Josh Coppins (NZ) +50.949secs
7. David Philippaerts (ITA) +53.418secs
8. Max Nagl (GER) +55.114secs
9. Tyla Rattray (RSA) +1min 1.258secs
10. Antonio Cairoli (ITA) +1min 16.403secs

Race 2 results (MX2/MX3):
1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA)
2. Ryan Villopoto (USA) +3.692secs
3. Ben Townley (NZ) +7.442secs
4. Steve Ramon (BEL) +8.846secs
5. Tyla Rattray (RSA) +17.509secs
6. Ivan Tedesco (USA) +21.543secs
7. Christophe Pourcel (FRA) +48.545secs
8. Jussi Vehvilainen (FIN) +50.186secs
9. Tommy Searle (GBR) +53.395secs
10. Carlos Campano (SPA) +1min 9.686secs

Race 3 results (MX1/MX3):
1. Stefan Everts (BEL)
2. James Stewart (USA) +4.702secs
3. David Philippaerts (ITA) +23.444secs
4. Tanel Leok (EST) +28.726secs
5. Steve Ramon (BEL) +32.057secs
6. Jonathan Barragan (SPA) +36.722secs
7. Sebastien Pourcel (FRA) +41.229secs
8. Josh Coppins (NZL) +46.602secs
9. Ivan Tedesco (USA) +51.647secs
10. Billy Mackenzie (GBR) +1min 1.029secs