Belgium Takes Motocross des Nations

Paul Carruthers | October 5, 2003

The following release is from Dorna…

Team Belgium have won the 57th Motocross of Nations this afternoon at Zolder in their home country.

It is the 13th time the Belgians have claimed the trophy of the prestigious end of season competition.

In front of a large 23,000 attendance, crammed around the purpose built course that crosses the historic motor racing circuit several times, the 2003 World Championship winning trio of Stefan Everts, Joel Smets and Steve Raom notched the highest results and therefore the lowest winning score to own the event.

After the heavy rainfall of Friday the ‘whoops’ section (that had been cut out of the track in the interests of preservation for today’s activities) was opened and raised the difficulty of the circuit another notch.

A taste of what was to come was provided by the first Semi final in which AMA Champion Ricky Carmichael and Everts indulged in a fantastic battle for the lead throughout the first half of the race. The pair seemed to be urged on by the energy radiating from a thrilled and boisterous crowd and did not let the fans down. Swapping lines and positions with almost show-staged regularity Carmichael was able to finally make the break around the 20 minute stage of the 30 minute and 2 lap distance. A mass pile-up wrecked the moto for the latter half of the field in the first few corners of the race and Joel Smets crossed the line in a disappointing 15th after hole-shotting and then crashing while fronting the pack on the first lap. Factory KTM rider Joaquim Rodrigues was ruled out of action for Portugal in the formative stages with a spectacular accident.

Everts was caught by the second member of Team USA, Ryan Hughes, and then also his countryman Steve Ramon. The seven times World Champion struggled with arm pump and eventually placed fourth, that together with Ramon’s third was good enough to leave Belgium second overall on points scored (awarded in reverse order with Carmichael taking one, Hughes two and so on, the lowest score of the two best placed riders from a team of three winning the race for a Nation). Placed after America and Belgium were France, Great Britain, Denmark and South Africa all making it through to Final A.

Chilly conditions were offset by intervals of bright sunshine contrasted by the odd shower as the second semi final got underway. Josh Coppins for New Zealand dived into the opening turn first and was not headed as those around him began to feel the demands of an increasingly rougher and challenging sandy terrain. The Kiwis were able to take the overall win and enter the gate second for Final A as Ben Townley finished 9th despite crashing twice. Finland’s Jussi Vehvilainen swept past the chequered flag undisturbed as runner-up giving Honda a ‘one-two’, Antti Pyrhonen was eighth and allowed the podiumees from 2002 to claim second place overall. Estonia, Japan, Czech Republic and Ireland were the other Nations to qualify for Final A. Spain almost squeezed through but Javier Garcia Vico had some mechanical problems and also slipped off. Joan Barreda and Jonathan Barragan both crashed. Barreda had to be taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg.

So come the afternoon and Final B got underway. Defending Champions Italy, with a weakened squad, lost the only member of their 2002 winning line-up when Andrea Bartolini fell out on the whoops section on lap three as the rain began to fall again for the rest of the duration. The race consisted of a brief contest between Norway and Spain for the win (and 13th place overall in the 2003 MX of Nations), which Kenneth Gundersen triumphed for the former. Early leader Javier Garcia Vico had mechanical problems that dropped him to fourth behind Sweden’s Joakim Karlsson and Australia’s Andrew McFarlane; the Aussies were standing on the podium only two years ago. Sweden gained overall success and the ’03 ranking of 13th while Italy had to be content with 17th (5th in Final B).

The main race, starting at 5 p.m. and with the King of Belgium looking on, saw a superlative performance once more from Carmichael. In front of an excited and willing crowd the Honda rider recovered from a shaky start to rapidly slice the advantage carved out by leader Stefan Everts that stood at around 4-5 seconds. Everts could offer no resistance this time to the American’s threat and instead wisely chose to defend a solid second position with the knowledge that Joel Smets was riding relatively unhindered in third. Team USA’s chances of victory went out the window when Tim Ferry, who had been nursing a small injury to his left hand, started near the rear of the pack and Ryan Hughes crashed and could not restart due to a broken chain on his KTM. Ferry made his way up to 8th but then fell with several laps to go and finally crossed the line in 9th.

Steve Ramon was another faller and was fortunate that his retirement on the KTM 250 did not affect the team’s result. With the first two places on the podium decided it was left to Finland to make the top three for the second year in succession thanks to the efforts of Jussi Vehvilainen and Antti Pyrhonen who were 6th and 10th, respectively.

Gordon Crockard ended the race fourth and helped lift Ireland to 7th overall. Josh Coppins was fifth and Ben Townley’s involvement in a crash on the first lap and subsequent DNF did not help New Zealand get the result they were expecting. Shayne King earned 14th to place the Kiwis fourth.

A DNF by star rider Yoshitaka Atsuta did not prevent Japan taking fifth. Paul Cooper’s seventh position in the race was Great Britain’s highest result and hiked the Brits to seventh in the final table.

“This is an incredible day and it has been an amazing year,” said Stefan Everts. “The race was hard today but we knew what he had to do, and we had such excellent support. Motocross is very important in this small little country and to ride and win in front of the King was a proud moment.”

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.