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Courtney Duncan: WMX Title #2

2 months ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: Infront Moto Racing

What a memorable season 2020 has trned out to be for Kiwi dirt bike racers on the world stage. In America’s premier off-road championship, the GNCC (Grand National Cross Country), Rachael Archer claimed second Overall in the WXC Championship. In Europe, Hamish Macdonald has just racked up his second consecutive Enduro World Championship title [https://transmoto.com.au/hamish-macdonald-another-world-enduro-title/] (somehow, he also claimed the German and New Zealand national enduro titles while he was at it!). And Courtney Duncan has recently clinched her second consecutive FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship (WMX).

Here’s an insight into the 24-year-old Kiwi’s incredible achievement, penned by the MXW series’ promoters, Infront Moto Racing…

DRT Kawasaki’s Courtney Duncan has repeated her success once again, as she claimed the WMX World title for a consecutive season in a row, after what can be described as a very demanding season of the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship.

Introduced to motocross by her stepdad, Duncan started riding at the age of age, enjoying bike time as much as she could after school and on the weekends at her own small track in her backyard. In 2016, Duncan made her first appearance in the WMX Championship in Qatar with two impressive race wins, which saw her take to the top step of the podium on her first outing. She finished the season fifth in the standings, with five race wins and three GP victories under her belt.

In 2017, she returned to try again and following a season long battle with Kiara Fontanesi and Livia Lancelot, Duncan finished third in the standings – despite missing two GPs and just two points shy of the title. She still had a really strong year, with four race wins and three GP victories. A year later, bad luck struck once again as an injury forced the New Zealander to miss the final two rounds of her 2018 campaign, which meant she would not become champion just yet.

Though in 2019, the Kiwi was finally able to get the job done as she secured the crown for the very first time. She entered the season strong and carried this moment to win nine out of 10 races, only to miss out on the perfect score at the opening round in Valkenswaard as a massive crash over the finish jump cost her a podium finish. But she made up for it and claimed the next four Overall podium victories, finally winning the WMX Championship with a 30-point lead over the Dutch rider, Nancy van de Ven.

The journey to the second world title wasn’t exactly an easy one for Duncan, who had to fight for the gold plate until the very last race of the season, during the MXGP of Pietramurata. She started the season strongly, with a double race win at the opening round in Matterley Basin to enter the following round in Valkenswaard with the red plate. A fourth in race one and a second in heat two put Duncan fourth to narrowly miss out on the podium, though most importantly she held on to the red plate.

Then things took an unexpected turn, as the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to racing for next five to six months. The ladies then returned to international racing at the Round of Lombardia in Italy, which was a turning point for Duncan in terms of the championship. She won the opening race, though the second one took a dramatic direction as the Kiwi was thrown into the air on one of the tabletops before the finish line. The Kawasaki rider was able to walk away from such a big crash, though the same could not be said for her bike, as snapped handlebars took away the chance for Duncan to fight back in the race.

Subsequently, she lost the red plate after the DNF in Lombardia, which gave the red plate to championship rival, Larissa Papenmeier. Though with another GP on schedule in Mantova, this gave the Kiwi the chance to fight back and she did just that. A 2-1 result for an Overall victory was exactly what Duncan needed to get herself back into title contention.

The title chase went down to the wire, as the top ladies – Nancy Van De Ven, Larissa Papenmeier, Courtney Duncan and Kiara Fontanesi – entered the final round in Pietramurata with just 10 points separating the four frontrunners. Duncan didn’t get the best start in the opening race, though was able to fight her way through to second, before Papenmeier toppled over on the final lap, which allowed Duncan to get closer and pass the German to take the win. Then race two she finished third behind Van De Ven and Fontanesi.

Duncan finished the day tied on points with Van De Ven, so the championship was decided by race wins, and it was the Kiwi’s five heat victories over Van De Ven’s three that gave her the advantage to take her second world title in two years.

“I’m so grateful. I’ve had a lot of tough times to come through and to get this championship, it feels really good,” said Duncan. “A huge thanks to the team, everyone back home that supports me, and all the girls for a really good challenging year. It’s good for the fans who are not here and watching on TV and when a championship is close, I think everyone enjoys it. We will enjoy this one

Now with her second title ticked off the ‘bucket list’, we will see Duncan return to the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship in 2021 as she looks to defend her title for the second time.

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