CAPTION: New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan (Kawasaki), on target to secure her fourth world title in Turkey this weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan is one cool customer, and she needs to be if she wants to clinch her fourth motocross world championship title in Turkey this weekend.
For most individuals, the bottom lip would be quivering and nerves jangling just to think about lining up on the start line … but that’s probably not the case with South Island rider Duncan.
We can more easily imagine her teeth rather gritted in quiet determination as she awaits the drop of the starting gate.
The Kawasaki rider is a solid 16 points clear at the top of the 2023 Women’s Motocross World Championships (WMX) standings with just the sixth and final round – two races at the Turkish GP at Afyonkarahisar this weekend – all that stands in the way of her collecting the crown for 2023.
The triple world champion, from the Otago town of Palmerston, north of Dunedin, managed fourth and third in her two WMX class races at the previous round, at Arnhem in The Netherlands, two weeks ago.
And while that wasn’t enough to see her stand on the podium at the end of racing at the Dutch GP, she had 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.
Duncan’s advantage has now been shaved back to 16 points, but the Kiwi hero could still feel reasonably satisfied that she can capture her fourth world title at the finale on Sunday afternoon (actually Monday morning NZ time).
Third overall in the current standings, behind Duncan (223 points) and Guillen (207 points), is emerging young star Dutch Lotte Van Drunen (Kawasaki, 200 points), the just-turned 16-year-old who made the most of racing in front of her many Dutch fans by winning both races on home turf at Arnhem.
Another Dutch rider, Lynn Valk (Fantic) is ranked fourth on 168 points and 29-year-old Italian six-time former world champion Kiara Fontanesi (GasGas) rounds out the top five in the championship standings on 157 points.
The 27-year-old Duncan knows she needs only concern herself with avoiding any entanglements in Turkey.
A couple of fourth placings in Turkey should just about be enough for Duncan to prevail, regardless of what her rivals achieve this weekend.
We should remember too that Duncan has won more races than any other rider this season and also totally dominated and celebrated back-to-back wins at the Turkish GP last season.
Duncan has won five of the 10 races held so far this season (over the five GPs), while Van Drunen has won four times and Guillen only once.
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 the record books as the WMX rider with the most overall GP wins in history, a staggering 22 GP victories in total (with each GP comprising two races).
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 nature when she races in Turkey this weekend.
STANDINGS (after round five of six):
WMX – Championship Top 10 Classification: 1. Courtney Duncan (NZL, KAW), 223 points; 2. Daniela Guillen (ESP, GAS), 207 p.; 3. Lotte Van Drunen (NED, KAW), 200 p.; 4. Lynn Valk (NED, FAN), 168 p.; 5. Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, GAS), 157 p.; 6. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), 132 p.; 7. Britt Jans-Beken (NED, YAM), 109 p.; 8. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, YAM), 105 p.; 9. Charli Cannon (AUS, YAM), 91 p.; 10. Danee Gelissen (NED, KTM), 74 p.
Rnd 1: Sardegna (ITA) – Riola Sardo, 25-26 Mar
Rnd 2: Switzerland – Frauenfeld, 8-10 Apr
Rnd 3: Spain – intu Xanadú – Arroyomolinos, 6-7 May
Rnd 4: France – Villars sous Ecot, 20-21 May
Rnd 5: Netherlands – Arnhem, 19-20 Aug
Rnd 6: Turkey – Afyonkarahisar, 2-3 Sep
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com