Going into his last ever Namur Grand Prix in a weeks time Stefan Everts let us know a little about his first knowledge of the old school circuit. For most of us Namur is a place we can enjoy and think about our trips to the magnificent circuit on the hill top. For Stefan Everts it has been his playground, his battle field and a place which brings him happy and sad memories. We couldn't go through the week without asking the six time winner of Namur how he felt about this historical part of our great sport.
Back in the early 1980's young children played around the Namur Citadele. It was not about the brilliant racing, but more about enjoying the pleasant atmosphere of the forrest area. In the middle of the magnificent hilltop area is a small playground, a playground that saw riders like Cedric Melotte and Stefan Everts enjoy happy moments in their youth.
As Roger De Coster and Graham Noyce were taking victories around the historial circuit the Belgian kids just wanted to dig sandcastles and run through the forrest. For Everts it was a place he didn't get to go to as much as he might have liked, but when he did travel up the hill to the citadel, he knew where to find his friends.
"The Citadele was a playground for me, it really was fun there. You know there is a playground in the middle of the citadel, down by where they used to ride over the road section. I used to play there all the time when I was a little kid, all the kids used to play there. Namur was always a 500cc race, and my dad only raced 125cc and 250cc, so I hardly ever went there for the races."
"I remember when they had the veterans race in 1987 or 1988. They had all the old bikes and my dad won the veteran class, he beat Roger De Coster. What I found interesting was the old bikes, they had two classes, one for the old bike and one for the new bikes. My dad rode a Suzuki and De Coster who at that time was the big guy for Honda in America, he rode a Honda. I remember Dave Bickers rode an old bike, it was really cool."
That veterans race was the first time that an Everts would take victory around the Citadelle circuit. With his teenage son on the sidelines Harry Everts beat the lion of Namur (De Coster). Little would he know that one day that 15 year old would himself create his own destiny around the Citadelle . Like all races at Namur it was a classic, and the large crowd enjoyed the tough battle between two World Motocross legends.
"De Coster had won seven times in Namur, so he was the king of Namur. I think he stopped in the early 80's in Namur, and he was still very popular in Belgium and also very fast. My father passed him on the last lap, just down by the cafe, he passed him in a chicane and won the race. They were really riding hard, it was so much fun to watch."
While Stefan Everts has also won seven times at Namur, he is not looking at the record held by De Coster and himself, instead looking at making his 2006 race, one of consistency and hopefully victory. Everts remembers all too well one of the last times he arrived in Namur and wanted to win so badly. It was back in 2001 when he was fighting with Joel Smets in the 500cc championship. With his uncle Pierre fighting cancer Stefan went out and captured his 50th Grand Prix victory, and equalled the all time tally of Joel Robert for the most GP victories.
"I've won six GP's and the overall in the 2001 Motocross des Nations at Namur. I try not to think about beating the seven wins by De Coster and myself. I remember going there to win my 50th Grand Prix, and it put so much pressure on me, I don't want that again this year. Back then I was so nervous in qualification. Winning my 50th Grand Prix in Namur with my Uncle Peirre there, that was really special for me. I have had so many great memories, it's difficult to pick and choice which one was the best."
As for his favourite circuit, there is not runnerup, just Namur, and more Namur. If any one track has given Everts his share of enjoyment, it's the Citadell.e. While the playground is now place his son Liam might play one day, it's the steep downhills and trecherous corners that now make Stefan Everts smile with happiness. Amazingly it was not until 1998 that Everts got the chance to race around the Namur circuit, and it was a moment to rejoice.
"Namur is such a cool place to go to, it's my favourite by far. My first win there was in 1998, I had never ridden there before that. Because I was always racing in the 250cc class I never got the chance to race in Namur, or even watch. We had a free weekend, and I got a seeded ride. We made a bike up for the race and I won easy. That was actually my first time to race there in my career, and I had started racing in 1988. I think I made a lot of 500cc guys looks ridiculous that day. That was for so long my dream to race in Namur, and to win it so easily was really a great thing for me."
Of course in 2006 Everts will make his 8th race in Namur, and while riders like Josh Coppins and Kevin Strijbos will be looking at taking victory, they will all have to get through the kid from the playground before they can hope to take the victory flag.