Stefan Everts has completed an astounding season of motocross this weekend at the Grand Prix of France: A record 72 Grand Prix victories, triple-crown holder, seven World Championships and now the only rider ever to win three races - in three different classes - on the same day.

The twelfth and final round of the 125, MXGP and 650 classifications belonged utterly to the 30-year-old Belgian and new MXGP World Champ. He triumphed with ease in the 125 and MXGP races and despatched the threat from Javier Garcia Vico in equally dominant fashion in a tiring last 650 moto to become the greatest rider the sport has ever seen.

The factory Yamaha rider's CV contains achievements that are likely to be unmatched for many, many years - but with the 650cc class being scrapped for next season, it's unlikely anyone will ever repeat the Belgian's three GP wins in one day feat.

It began in positive fashion for Everts with a straightforward win from Alessio Chiodi and Luigi Seguy for an all-Yamaha podium under hot and sunny conditions in front of a buoyant 15,000 crowd packed onto the hillside facing the track.

Everts seized the lead on the first lap and wasn't headed. His win set-up the treble nicely with a composed performance but the headlines were not his just yet as Steve Ramon clinched his first World Championship by crossing the line in fifth position.

Ramon finally ditched the runner-up tag he has been carrying for the last two seasons and gave Belgium a clean sweep of Championship victors in one year (thus forming a crack Belgian team for the forthcoming Motocross of Nations). The race had started dramatically when Ramon's only threat Andrea Bartolini was one of several 'crashees' in the opening circulation.

The Italian fought his way back to tenth spot and sadly his lowest finish of the season also coincided with Everts gaining 12 more points and collecting second position that the Yamaha four-stroke rider had been holding for most of the year. It is a testament to Everts' feats in 2003 that his seven consecutive 125 wins and final 15 point deficit to Ramon (he missed the first three rounds) might be slightly lost in the haul of silverware and milestones.

A mention must go to Frenchman Luigi Seguy who gave the vocal crowd good reason to be throaty and scored his first podium in over a year. Tyla Rattray finished the season on a high with fourth while Ben Townley crashed into Bartolini on the first lap but cut his way up to an impressive sixth behind his factory team-mate.

Although, the acclaim must go to the consistent Ramon (who only clocked one win but six podiums) and KTM; the Austrians are celebrating their third 125 crown in four years. The defending number one before the race, Mickael Maschio, did not experience a happy home GP and was seventh in front of David Guarnieri and Pascal Leuret.

Maschio has to be content with the number four plate for next year while Erik Eggens will carry number five.

Part two of Everts' workload was made significantly easier when the chasing Joel Smets crashed his KTM 450 and let his rival disappear with the MXGP win. The Championship had already been tied up of course and Smets, the absent Pichon and Brian Jorgensen could not be displaced from their respective top four standing in the points table.

After Smets' slip the race sunk into a procession with regards to the podium slots. Jorgensen (Honda 450) held second in front of Josh Coppins (factory Honda 250) and the Dane's third consecutive top three result (second runner-up spot of the season) was assured when the chasing Coppins had a small crash that planted him alone in third.

Patrick Caps waited until the last race of the year to notch his highest position in the class with fourth; it was by far the quiet Belgian's best ride since his move to the MXGP series.

A fantastic fight for fifth entertained the fans and was eventually won by Kevin Strijbos on the 250cc Suzuki who produced a sublime display of attacking and mature motocross far advanced of his 18 years and rookie status. The Belgian beat Marnicq Bervoets and Joel Smets. A frustrated Smets passed the chequered flag in seventh in front of Kenneth Gundersen, Christophe Martin and Yoshitaka Atsuta.

The final chart shows that Everts won nine MXGPs in a row. The only other victor was Mickael Pichon who took the opening three rounds. Everts lowest result was a ninth in Holland. Smets' runner-up spot was mainly thanks to nine podiums in what was still a difficult and win-free campaign on the new KTM.

Jorgensen was Honda's top rider in fourth and Gundersen beat his 250cc Kawasaki team-mate Andrew McFarlane to fifth.

With Smets losing out to Everts yet again in the MXGP class the public and paddock sensed a possible confrontation of epic proportions for the final race of the season. The 650 stage was set; Smets had only lost once on the bigger bike all year while a tired Everts was chasing a place in MX history.

The GP almost fulfilled expectations. Everts flew into the lead on the first lap once more but Smets was in close attendance and looking considerably relaxed on his preferential larger motorcycle.

The pair circled and swapped positions briefly even leading to a loud cheer from the masses as Everts was overtaken for the first time all day. Smets then lost control of the rear of his bike coming off a jump and slithered into the dirt. He had to restart the KTM but then embarked on a manic comeback that culminated in a fine third place finish and his 11th podium from 12 GPs.

However, Everts could not break free immediately and the crowd were on their feet as he himself crashed at slow speed allowing Javier Garcia Vico to assume control for three laps. Everts took time to find his rhythm and wore the Spaniard down before going on to take his third win by two seconds and throw the curtain down on his momentous 2003 season.

Cedric Melotte was fourth and pipped to the podium by Smets. The latter seemed far from happy after the race and pointed to all the speculation surrounding his future, which will be announced tomorrow, as a disrupting influence.

He can still look back on his final term with KTM and remember his fifth Championship win while Vico, who allegedly is set to leave KTM also, celebrated his 10th second position of the year (and that spot in the final classification) by shedding his clothing on the podium.

Cedric Melotte finished third overall and in the last 650 GP before the World Championship structure changes to MX1 and MX2 for 2004.

Embracing a two moto format, the MX1 (Motocross GP) and MX2 (125cc two-strokes and 250cc four-strokes) programme will now take Motocross forward into the future.

Meanwhile, Everts can turn his attention to next months Motocross of Nations, where he will seek to cap his tremendous season by helping Belgian triumph over the USA - and Ricky Carmichael - in a true clash of the motocross titans.

 

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