The 23-year-old Otago rider, from Palmerston, near Dunedin, was in scintillating form at the weekend’s second of five rounds for the 2019 Women’s World Motocross Championships in Portugal, taking her Kawasaki KX250F to convincingly win both her races and snatch the championship points lead.
Riding for the British-based Bike It DRT Kawasaki racing team, Duncan has been the dominant rider of the series thus far.
She won the opening race of the world championships in The Netherlands last month, but then crashed heavily while leading race two and fought back to finish the race in seventh. Unfortunately, she was forced to settle for fourth overall that weekend.
But now, with back-to-back wins in Portugal, it means she has won three of the four races run this season and now enjoys a four-point lead over Dutch rider Nancy van de Ven as they prepare for round three in the Czech Republic on July 27-28.
In her first race on Saturday, Duncan exited turn one in second position, but needed just half a lap to sweep into the lead. She immediately opened up a two-second lead by the end of the opening lap.
The flying Kiwi increased her lead to a comfortable 10 seconds by mid-race and she eventually swept to victory by more than 12 seconds over German rider Larissa Papenmeier.
In race two on Sunday, Duncan took the lead on lap two and quickly opened up a gap on her pursuers. In the end, Duncan finished more than 30 seconds ahead of runner-up rider van de Ven.
“I got blocked in at the first turn in that second race, but I didn’t panic, sorted out a good place to make a clean pass and could race away.
“I’m just taking it race by race at the moment and not really thinking about the championship.
“It was a great weekend – from qualifying on pole, then two race wins and taking the red (championship leader’s) plate … I really can’t ask for much more,” Duncan told BikesportNZ.com.
“Now it’s a big break again (before the next round in the series in the Czech Republic), but I’ll use this opportunity to continue to build. I’m very excited to get back to work and get better.
“Thanks to the whole DRT Kawasaki team for all the effort and everyone for support and also to Kawasaki Motors Europe, Kawasaki New Zealand and Monster Energy for showing their faith and giving me this opportunity.
“The amount of messages I’ve received from back home has been crazy really. I appreciate it.
“I’ll be going back to New Zealand to keep doing the work and come out swinging at Loket (in the Czech Republic),” said Duncan.
This season is Duncan’s first on the Kawasaki bike and she is well on target now to emulate the Women’s World Cup successes achieved by fellow Kiwi Katherine Prumm when she took her Kawasaki KX250F to finish top in the world in 2006 and again in 2007.
Duncan has come close to winning the Women’s Motocross World Championships in three previous seasons, but has frustratingly fallen short each time.
Twice she was denied the world title through injury and then lost the title by just two points on the other occasion.
More determined than ever to finally achieve her goal, Duncan made the decision to join the highly-experienced British Kawasaki squad run by Steve Dixon.
“They’ve given me an awesome opportunity and I’m very motivated to put them on top in 2019. A fresh start was what I needed and I couldn’t be more excited than to do that with Kawasaki. Kawasaki New Zealand have also come on board to support me at home, for which I am also very thankful.”
Photos courtesy Pascal Haudiquert
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WMX Championship Top Five:
1. Courtney Duncan (NZ, KAW) 89 points; 2. Nancy van de Ven (NED, YAM) 85; 3. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, YAM) 82; 4. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, YAM) 67; 5. Lynn Valk (NED, YAM) 63.
WMX 2019 calendar:
March 30-31: Valkenswaard (Netherlands)
May 18-19: Agueda (Portugal)
July 27-28: Loket (Czech Republic)
August 17-18: Imola (Italy)
September 7-8: Afyon (Turkey)