New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan continues to lead the Women’s Motocross World Championships after a difficult time at round two of the series in Italy at the weekend.

The 21-year-old Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team rider from Otago finished 2-3 in her two WMX outings, but this was still enough for her to extend her championship lead from one point to six over the new No.2 woman in the title chase, fellow Yamaha star and Italy’s former world champion Kiara Fontanesi.

This second of six rounds in the WMX series in Trentino was a frustrating one for Duncan, who likes nothing better than to dominate her rivals.

“I put myself in good positions in both the races. I was in the lead halfway through each race and made a silly mistake in both of them, which cost me dearly,” she said.

Saturday’s first of two WMX races saw Duncan battle her way back to second, not far behind Fontanesi, and she was followed by Dutch Yamaha rider Nancy Van De Ven.

In Sunday’s second race, it was simply a matter of who could make the fewest mistakes would take victory.

Van De Ven grabbed the holeshot and led the early stages, while Fontanesi applied pressure to Van De Ven and passed her.

However, a few moments later, Fontanesi went down in a corner, tumbling over a berm. The challenges for Van De Ven then continued to grow as Duncan was next to make a pass.

The Kiwi was riding at a blistering pace, but was unable to maintain it, going down while leading for a second time. Van De Ven also went down in the race but both riders recovered lost ground, Van de Ven moving to fourth and Duncan to third.

For the overall podium, Duncan’s 2-3 finishes handed her the runner-up spot for the weekend, behind Fontanesi, who had finished 1-2, but one step up from French Kawasaki rider and defending 2016 world champion Livia Lancelot (5-1).

Duncan said there were positives to take away from the two races.

“The speed was really good and I still have the red plate (as the WMX points leader). I have six weeks before the next round to learn and get better and hopefully come back swinging and in fine form for France.”

Duncan, who grew up in Palmerston, near Dunedin, won the first round of 2017 in Indonesia, which she described as “a bit of a mud-fest” and, after the weekend’s Italian round, she now has a six-point buffer over Fontanesi.

She will be based in Europe for the next six months, training and racing her way around the continent. It is the realisation of many years of dedication and hard work.

“I knew I had a passion from day one. As soon as I rode a bike I loved it,” she says.

Duncan had a track out behind her house and her early years were spent riding her 50cc motorbike all day, until it was dark. She was only 13-years-old when she decided motocross was what she wanted to do as a job.

“I’m very fortunate I don’t have a 9 to 5 (job). I get to do what I love in a daily basis.”

Duncan is also grateful to her long-term sponsor Yamaha for their continued support and for having former MXGP star Josh Coppins, of Motueka, as her coach.

“This is my second year with Josh now and I learned a lot with him in the first year. Obviously having him in Europe is a huge help.  He’s been there and he’s done it and he’s also been the best at it,” Duncan said.

Coppins helped her return from the bitter disappointment of crashing out of the WMX, while leading last year, when she collided with a photographer during the German round of the event. She injured her hand and was forced to miss the next two rounds.

He says, from a team point of view, they will try to make some improvements to Duncan’s bike and get her to some more races before her next WMX round, at Ernee, in France, on May 27 and 28, just “to keep her eye in”.

A philosophical Duncan knows there are many highs in lows in her chosen sport and this year, she has re-set her sights on that world number one position that she hopes to claim at the final round in France in September.

“Trust your process, trust your programme and, in the end, it will get you to where you want to be. I believe anything is possible,” Duncan said.

The Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing team is supported by Altherm Window Systems, Yamaha, JCR, CRC, Ados, GYTR, Yamalube, Fox Racing, Hollands Collision Centre, Star Moving, Ward Demolition, Fulton Hogan, Pirelli, FMF, DID, NGK, Matrix, Renthal, Motomuck, www.workshopgraphics.co.nz, Motoseat, Hammerhead, SKF, Vertex Pistons, Rtech Plastics, Etnies, Biketranz and Fulton Hogan.

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WMX Race 1 Top Ten:

  1. Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, Yamaha), 25:36.350; 2. Courtney Duncan (NZL, Yamaha), +0:10.549; 3. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, Yamaha), +0:22.682; 4. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, Suzuki), +0:39.577; 5. Livia Lancelot (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:40.967; 6. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, KTM), +1:03.492; 7. Natalie Kane (IRL, Honda), +1:18.353; 8. Stephanie Laier (GER, KTM), +1:18.454; 9. Nicky van Wordragen (NED, Yamaha), +1:18.612; 10. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), +1:19.213

WMX Race 2 Top Ten:

  1. Livia Lancelot (FRA, Kawasaki), 24:18.547; 2. Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, Yamaha), +0:03.770; 3. Courtney Duncan (NZL, Yamaha), +0:05.484; 4. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, Yamaha), +0:06.059; 5. Francesca Nocera (ITA, Suzuki), +1:02.654; 6. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, Suzuki), +1:14.728; 7. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, KTM), +1:22.837; 8. Virginie Germond (SUI, Yamaha), +1:27.585; 9. Sara Andersen (DEN, Yamaha), +1:36.783; 10. Joanna Miller (POL, KTM), +1:44.507

WMX Championship Top 5:

  1. Courtney Duncan (NZL, YAM), 83 points; 2. Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, YAM), 77 p.; 3. Livia Lancelot (FRA, KAW), 67 p.; 4. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, YAM), 63 p.; 5. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, SUZ), 63 p.

Photo courtesy MXGP


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