Everquip Racing’s Road to the British Superbike Paddock

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It is one of the most incredible stories surrounding a team formation in recent years. A business owner from Hornsea on the picturesque Holderness Coast took a huge risk in backing a certain rider in British Supersport last season – admittedly knowing little about the world of motorcycle racing. From tears and cheers to heartbreak and despair, as well as the graft and hardwork, Everquip Racing formed to become a full-time team in the British Supersport championship in 2017, with South African star Bjorn Estment as their rider. But the journey undertook to get to the championship is simply incredible. This is how Everquip Racing came together to be part of one of the most competitive championships in the world.

Stuart Everard, one of the owners at Everquip Garage Equipment, has been in business for over two decades. Carl Crisp, a former racer, is a Director at Everquip, along with Lyndon Blackburne. However, unlike Stuart, he has a fond interest in motorcycle racing.

The Hornsea bike event of 2015 would be the start of the interest in the world of bikes and bike racing. Thousands of people from the area and elsewhere descended onto the event, leaving Stuart thinking, ‘if only the event had a sponsor’.

Meanwhile, South African Bjorn Estment was thinking the same thing, this time however, it was about himself. Estment has been one of the stars of tomorrow for the last couple of seasons but he has never been allowed to showcase the talent that many know and believe he has. Due to his lack of interest in the sport, Stuart Everard reluctantly sponsored Bjorn, who at the time was riding for East Coast Construction – the same team that Lee Johnstone brought success to from the road racing scene.

On the return to the 2016 Hornsea Bike Event, Everquip sponsored the festival. Bjorn was also in attendance, with his bike at the time (a Triumph). This was the first time that Stuart had personally met Bjorn. Instantly impressed with the South African’s ability to charm people and his determination to succeed in the motorcycle racing world, conversations instantly became serious. Everard recalls having a few pints at Cadwell Park last season and falling off his much loved van, laughing about going full time for 2017. The subject was discussed but no promises are made.

I first learnt about Bjorn’s lack of ride at the Hornsea bike event last year but told him to go to Donington Park. The South African joined Fred Clark on the circuit commentary throughout the weekend, announcing that there was discussion about coming back to the British Supersport Championship. Everard, during a journey from Knockhill to Sheffield, told me that he wanted Bjorn to take a step back from racing at Donington Park, to reset more than anything. To get a taste of the action, Everard and business partner Carl Crisp went along to Assen, The Netherlands; one of the most iconic circuits of all time. As well as getting an idea about the effort, he was getting an idea about branding and what it takes to become a successful team in BSB.

In typically Dutch weather conditions, British Supersport qualifying began. The track was drying and times were getting quicker and quicker. Suddenly, Estment went top, which was half expected as the drying conditions helped all out on circuit. However, nobody who crossed the line after him could beat the South African’s time. In their first proper weekend together as a team, Estment and Everquip were staring down the barrel of pole position. Although Mason Law and David Allingham would pip Estment to pole, it was a stirling effort which nonetheless put him on the front row of the grid at what I dubbed last year as “The Cathedral of Dreams”. Everard recalls the moment in his own words:

I remember being in the pit garage thinking that this could be something really special. What I did not expect was the reaction of the team. Grown men crying in the garage, I’m thinking ‘what the hell am I getting myself into here?’. When I saw how much work went into Bjorn and how much passion there was in the team, I thought, ‘this is what I want to do next year’.

The season would come to a sticky end at Brands Hatch, with a 14th place and DNF. Tempers ran high, with fallouts amongst various different team personnel. But this wasn’t enough for the team to break up and dissolve. An announcement was made on the Saturday of the meeting that the team would be a full time feature in 2017. The emotional connection and bond had become too strong.

When MarTrain Racing announced their immediate withdrawal from motorcycle racing, it became the perfect opportunity to buy a motorbike which had proven success. The bikes and the spare parts were snapped up and the formation of Everquip Racing was underway. A Michael Dunlop engine was snapped up and now it was finally happening. Along with the purchase of the parts required to actually go racing, branding became important. Racking up the views on Facebook and Twitter, the team was gaining respect and presence in the paddock. Their launch was made in front of over 500 people in Hornsea, where it all began in 2015, from a local businessman wanting to do good for his community.

Then, the real racing began. Testing in Cartagena was far from a lads holiday. A fuel leak almost caused a major disaster for the team but thankfully they avoided the calamity. Bjorn then arrived at the first race of the season where he crashed the bike straight away. However, it would be more pressing circumstances that would act as a wake up call for the rookie team.

But the frightening prospect is overcome by Bjorn’s passion and drive to succeed. “The inspiration that Bjorn carries with him makes the whole team pull together to do well”, said Everard, as we now arrived back on the English side of the border. “I’m not into bikes but I’m passionate about Bjorn. The thrill of racing and excitement to the point where you feel sick compared to wanting to do well and get podiums is the best. The sheer balance is incomparable”.

Not many riders have been given the massive opportunity that Estment has. But, that said, he doesn’t take that for granted at all. A life long supporter of MotoGP superstar Valentino Rossi, Estment always has a spec of fluorescent yellow on his leathers. If you’re privileged enough to experience the Everquip Racing Hospitality Unit, then you will notice a yellow piece of flooring surrounded by grey and orange. The yellow is Bjorn, whilst the grey and orange around him is the team. Estment is incredibly grateful for the team but also for the backing that saved his career. He is a real team player. So many riders have struggled with sponsorship over the years that has restricted their efforts to grow, like Luke Jones for example. You just need a break and Estment has got that. Likewise, the team have got Estment, one of the biggest stars in motorcycle racing to come.

Here is what Bjorn had to say about working with the team and the opportunity he has been given:

As a rider you literally grow up hoping, dreaming and believing that one day you will get the opportunity so many strive for and few are fortunate enough to be given. Few are presented with an opportunity to achieve success and greatness in ones given passion!

My said ‘passion’ is motorcycle racing and at the the back end of 2016 (arguably one of the toughest seasons) I was thrown a life line of great proportion with the chance to run with the full backing of market leading inspection pit and garage equipment company, Everquip Garage Equipment ltd. This chance/opportunity that I have been given is a remarkable turn of events after previous campaigns and seasons where due to many limiting factors, I could only show flashes of skill and potential that many believe I posses. After years of hard work, dedication, desire and a relentless will to achieve and get to where I believe I should belong, Everquip Racing have given me a much needed chance and I am eternally thankful to them. I will not let them down! Also, a massive shout-out to Total Building Services, Pro Air conditioning and pulse engineering – my loyal personal sponsors who have supported me through the tough times and the good times.

Looking back at what seems like a whirlwind season already, I believe we have achieved so much in such little time. We as a team can be proud of our debut effort in British Supersport, and we’ve delivered a number of solid results which potentially, could’ve been even better had Lady Luck been on our side at moments along the way.

We have made our presence known and felt as a team and provide consistent entertainment to many friends, fans and followers. I believe we are well liked as a group and an asset to the British Superbike paddock! I certainly believe we will be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future with a run of circuits that play right into our strengths.

My father once said and continues to say to me, “We see so far because we stand on the shoulders of giants”. Everquip are mine and my boys giants and together, as a unit, we will dream. We do believe and we will certainly achieve.

We hope you all come along for the ride, support us and enjoy the roller coaster that is Motorsport, motorcycle racing and more specifically, British Superbikes

The team have a great working atmosphere however. Having experienced the whit and banter of mechanics Derek Rhodes (lead mechanic) and Mark Hill when they gave me lifts from Dunfermline to Knockhill and back throughout the weekend, the team oozes drive and positivity. Mark is also a sponsor of the team, with MHP Exhausts. The food is all cooked by Stuart’s wife Andrea, alongside Jane Gough and Sarah Kennedy, who, after spending sometime with them both and other members of the team on Sunday evening, really pushes for success and strides for the best. The team is everyone’s first concern. Ryan Estment, Bjorn’s brother, is Team Manager, whilst Joe Bolton is a third mechanic. James Grantham is a loyal sponsor of Bjorn’s, who attends all rounds with the team. The only thing Stuart believes is missing, is a data technician.

Sponsors besides Everquip are Michael Barraugh Steel, Pneumatic Engineering, Watts Mix and Total Building Services. Without these sponsors, racing would not be made possible and it goes again, down to the will to give Bjorn and the Everquip Racing Team a big break.

The team have massive plans. There’s discussion of buying a the new Yamaha 600cc machine, as well as progressing through the British Superbike paddock, remaining with Bjorn. Everard admitted that it is a steep learning curve and that he “wishes he knew more about bike racing”. He said he “regrets not getting into bikes sooner, but I always wanted to work in F1 driving the trucks”.

“When he wins, there will be a huge party! We believe in becoming successful so much that we will keep going until we achieve that goal. Resilience is so important. The risk and the stress is far greater than I had imagined but it’s that edge-of-the-seat aspect that makes us want it more”.

From not knowing much about motorcycle racing to being fully immersed in it, Stuart Everard hasn’t just embraced the BSB culture with welcome arms but he’s allowing someone to go all the way. The transformation of the team is absolutely remarkable. They could never have imagined being so successful, so soon – with 6th place at Oulton Park being their last result following Bjorn’s frightening accident in Knockhill qualifying.

It’s an inspirational journey. A journey that has seen tears of joy and moments of anger unite a team together for them to set off in achieving one, end goal. In the words of Stuart Everard coming through Newcastle on Monday morning after the Knockhill weekend: Allowing someone to fulfil their dreams is one of the most amazing and satisfying experiences and it is an honour to do something for a lad who simply wants to ride his bike and win.

 

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

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