CAPTION: New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan (Kawasaki), on target to secure her fourth world title in Turkey next month. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan is surely a massive inspiration to all Kiwi motorcycle racers, male and female alike, and her reputation was further enhanced at the weekend when she raced at the motocross Grand Prix of The Netherlands at Arnhem.
It was the penultimate round of the 2023 Women’s Motocross World Championships (WMX) and while her weekend in the deep Dutch sand did not all go according to her plans, the gritty resolve she displayed again exemplified the can-do nature of this well-travelled battler from Otago and showed again why she is so highly regarded worldwide.
The triple world champion and 2023 series leader from the South Island town of Palmerston, north of Dunedin, managed fourth and third in her two WMX class races at the weekend.
This earned her fourth overall result for the GP, a disappointing result by her high standards, but thankfully Duncan still managed to protect her position at the top of the series standings.
The Kawasaki ace had been 20 clear of her nearest challenger, Spanish GasGas rider Daniela Guillen, and that advantage has now been shaved back to 16 points.
However, with just one round remaining, in Turkey in two weeks’ time, the Kiwi hero could still feel reasonably satisfied that she can bring home to New Zealand her fourth world championship crown.
The GP at Arnhem was round five of six for the women, the riders rejoining the fray after their summer mid-season break, and the desire from the refreshened competitors was palpable.
Prior to Arnhem, the women had last raced at Villars sous Ecot, in France, round four on the weekend of May 20-21, and Duncan had dominated at that event, winning both races.
The 27-year-old Duncan knows she needs only concern herself with staying out of trouble to win her fourth WMX crown in Turkey.
“It was a heavy weekend for sure, but we always know that coming to the sand and I feel I minimised the damage out there,” said Duncan afterwards.
“It’s just a little out of the comfort zone coming to this stuff, and those girls who are brought up here are really comfortable in it, but I will continue to work on it for next year.
“Finishing 4-3 (in the two races) was just short of the podium which was disappointing, but most important is that I have a 16-point buffer going into Turkey. I always enjoy racing there so I’m looking to finish this off on a high.”
Motorcycling New Zealand women’s commissioner Sandra Perry said: “It was amazing to watch Courtney ride at this round. They were difficult track conditions, suited the local riders who ride this type of terrain all the time.
“A 16-point lead going into the final round in Turkey is a definite advantage with two races to go.
“Not only us Kiwi motorcycling enthusiasts, but fans and supporters from New Zealand and Australia will be watching Courtney. Her courage and determination makes us exceptionally proud of her. Go Courtney and good luck.”
The talented South Islander is already the most successful rider in the history of the FIM World Women’s Motocross Championship and she is showing no signs of loosening her grip on the throttle just yet.
Duncan has etched her name in history as the WMX rider with the most successful of all time, with 22 Grand Prix victories (round wins, with each round comprising two races).
Third overall in the latest 2023 standings, behind Duncan (223 points) and Guillen (207 points), is emerging young star Dutch Lotte Van Drunen (200 points), the youngster who made the most of racing in front of her many Dutch fans by winning both races on home turf at the weekend.
Another Dutch rider, Lynn Valk, is ranked fourth on 168 points and Italian Kiara Fontanesi rounding out the top five in the championship standings on 157 points.
Duncan had been hard at work, at home in New Zealand these past few months, preparing her for final phase of her 2023 campaign in Europe.
The Kawasaki ace won the WMX title three times in consecutive years – in 2019, 2020 and 2021 – before missing out on a fourth world title last year through injury.
She had been testing in a practice session on the eve of the second round of the 2022 WMX championships, the MXGP of Portugal in Agueda, when she went down in a nasty crash and suffered a broken collarbone.
Duncan will obviously be determined to stay out of trouble and avoid any disaster of that sort when she races in Turkey next month.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com