New Zealand junior motocross champion Courtney Duncan is kicking up a storm in the United States this week.
The 15-year-old tousle-haired blonde from Otago is racing her Backflips Yamaha YZ85 in four separate classes at the annual Ponca City Grand Nationals in Oklahoma and firmly on the podium in all four after the first two days of racing.
She convincingly won her first girls’ 65-85cc two-stroke race, finishing ahead of fellow Yamaha rider Kaitlyn Morrow, of Houston in Texas, establishing herself as the rider to beat as the competition continues over the next few days.
And although she’s a year younger than some of her male rivals, Duncan also managed to finish third in each of the other classes she’s contesting – the 14-16 years’ 85-150cc stock class, the 14-16 years’ 85-150 modified and the up-to-16 years’ 85-150cc open class.
“It’s a lot different over here to what I’m used to,” she told BikesportNZ.com.
“The riders are way faster for a start. It’s pretty hot too, around 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius). I just have to make sure I stay hydrated,” she said matter-of-factly.
“We had a few problems at the start of the event because we weren’t able to ride the bike before the racing and hadn’t sorted out the jetting and suspension.
“It’s getting better now each time I get out on the track.”
Duncan was ranked world No.6 when she beat most of the best young men on the planet at the 85cc world championships in 2009, and she has won numerous women’s motocross titles too, on both sides of the Tasman.
But, when the year 11 pupil from East Otago High School in Palmerston wrapped up her first New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships title in Tokoroa in April, it was one of the sweetest moments of her glittering career.
The Yamaha ace became the first female to win the New Zealand junior 13-16 years’ 85cc class title.
Now she has exported her talent to the US and could be on target to become the first female to win against the boys in the motocross hotbed of America.
Duncan’s step-dad, Noddy Turner, is with her to be her mechanic and support crew and also to give her the occasional reality check.
“I don’t really think she can do much better than this. I certainly never expected her to be running top-three against the boys here,” he said.
“These are all factory riders and teams she is up against, some of them operating tricked-out $40,000 bikes. It’s pretty unreal. We’re just doing everything from under a small tent.
“She’s turning a few heads over here … there’s no doubt about that.
“It’s just so huge over here. There are more than 2200 riders, not to mention support crews and fans. It took the organisers two days just to get everybody in.”
Racing continues tomorrow and Saturday (NZ time).
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com