The last Grand Prix of the 2003 FIM Motocross World Championships occurs this weekend at the Ernee circuit for the Grand Prix of France - with the 125 title chase still to be decided.

Stefan Everts and Joel Smets claimed the MXGP and 650 crowns respectively two weeks ago in the Czech Republic and now all eyes will be on the chase for the 125 crown that can still be won by three riders.

Factory KTM rider Ramon, who has finished runner-up for the last two seasons and has scored 7 podiums from the 11 rounds held so far, is the leader of the standings and favourite for success on Sunday. The Belgian could have taken his first World Championship a fortnight ago at Loket but a lacklustre race performance saw him cross the finish line down in 8th and the contest extended until this weekend.

Ramon's consistency on the SX 125 has been impressive in a competition that has seen the Yamaha four-strokes hold the upper hand since the introduction of the new rules at the start of the term allowing the 250cc thumpers to run in the same class.

Ramon can only boast a single win this year but has regularly been one of the highest placed riders on a 125cc machine; in fact his 8th place several weeks ago was his worse finish of the season.

The KTM man will move into the MX1 (MXGP) category for 2004 riding a 450 but firstly has to make sure that he scores at least 17th position in Ernee to secure the title. He heads Andrea Bartolini (on a Yamaha 250) by 22 points and then fellow countryman Stefan Everts by 24; with 25 points counting for a win.

Everts has owned the last six 125 GPs on his Yamaha four-stroke and should be the man to watch once again in France, while Ramon does not carry good memories of his last visit to Ernee back in 2001: A race crash and 16th place result while riding the factory Kawasaki conceded precious ground to eventual World Champ Jamie Dobb.

Defending number one for at least another few days, Mickael Maschio, will be pushing hard at his home GP and still has a chance to capture the runner-up spot overall before he throws his leg over Kawasaki's new 250cc four-stroke in the winter.

Stefan Everts may have a recorded seven World Championships and the highest amount of career GP wins ever, but the Belgian is showing no signs of easing off now that the pressure from the MXGP series has lifted.

The Yamaha man still has a sniff of 125 glory and after being the first rider ever to have won in two different classifications on the same day (achieved in Italy for round four and seven times since then, six consecutively) is now incredibly looking to extend that feat to three classes by participating in the 650 moto in Ernee.

The 2001 and 2002 500cc World Champ will transfer his MXGP toils with Joel Smets into the 650 arena and be hoping to end the season with a fitting visual display of the dominance he has asserted in 2003.

With local rider and winner of the 2001 250cc GP of France Mickael Pichon (pictured) out of action due to a knee injury, Smets is guaranteed second position in the standings and prepares for his last World Championship round as a KTM rider before announcing his plans for '04 in a press conference planned for Monday evening in Belgium.

Everts beat Smets by 12 seconds at Ernee for the 500cc race 24 months ago and is now hunting his ninth MXGP victory in a row.

The scrap for overall positions slightly down the order should promise some frantic race activity. Brian Jorgensen has taken three podium results on the Honda 450 and lies fourth 17 points ahead of Kawasaki 250cc duo Kenneth Gundersen and Andrew McFarlane respectively; themselves spilt by only three points.

Both riders produced decent performances the last time the GP circus arrived at Ernee. Gundersen took victory in the 125cc race while McFarlane claimed a strong podium finish behind Everts and Smets in the 500cc event.

Joel Smets will still be buoyant after taking his fifth World Championship several weeks ago but will still be keen to pin his blanket of control over the 650 classification.

The Belgian has won ten out of the eleven races in the series and will now be looking to gain some revenge over Everts on the larger bike with which he has been more formidable. Although Everts will be starting his third race of the afternoon the super-fit number one is expected to give his old foe a tougher time for the winners trophy than perhaps Javier Garcia Vico and Cedric Melotte have managed this year.

Vico is a deservingly Vice Champion after only missing the second step of the podium on two occasions and cannot be caught by Melotte who has enjoyed a successful season on the privateer Honda and will be hoping for his eighth top three result, having also already confirmed his final position with third in the standings.

 

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