New Zealand’s motocross fraternity will be holding its breath, crossing its fingers and willing Otago-born rider Courtney Duncan on to victory this weekend, as she closes in on her debut Women’s Motocross World Championship (WMX) title, at the final round in Afyonkarahisar, Turkey.
It has been three long years for the star Kiwi rider, as she has worked tirelessly towards her long-cherished dream to become a world champion. If all goes her way, the 23-year-old can wrap up the title after the first race on Saturday. Sitting 23 points ahead of Germany’s Larissa Papenmeier, Duncan would claim the maximum 25 points if she won and her championship lead would become unassailable.
Riding for British-based Kawasaki team Bike It Dixon Racing Team (DRT), Duncan was in a relaxed, focused frame of mind as she left England for Turkey today.
“I’m going to enjoy it – embrace the moment – and go out there and give it everything I’ve got. Everything I’ve done leading up to this point has put me in the position I’m in today. I feel like I’ve done everything I can, to be as ready as I can be, for this weekend. I’ve got a good feeling,” she says.
While the MXGP of Turkey was a brand-new event for the other categories last year, it did not feature on the WMX calendar, meaning the track will be new to Duncan and her rivals. She plans to head into this weekend the same way as she has approached the rest of her dominant 2019 season, where she has won seven out of her eight races.
“It’s important I nail the processes that lead to this championship and that starts with qualifying on Saturday morning and then obviously going through to moto 1. I need to nail a good start and put myself in a good position.”
Duncan says it has been a “tough, long road” since she burst onto the WMX scene in 2016, going 1-1 in her Qatar debut.
“Since then there’s been a lot of set-backs. A lot of injuries. A lot of doubts and that was weighing on my mind the last few years, so to be able to get this monkey off my back and to be able to finally tick it over would mean everything to me. Going through what I’ve gone through, it will be even sweeter.”
“Winning the WMX title would honestly mean the world to me. I’ve had this goal since I was such a young kid. All the way to the point where I was telling my school teachers – telling my parents at the dinner table – that I’m going to be world champion one day,” Duncan adds.
The last time a New Zealand woman held a world motocross title was when Katherine Oberlin-Brown (nee Prumm) won the Women’s World Cup in 2006 and 2007. The class was elevated to FIM World Motocross Championship status in 2008.
Motorcycling New Zealand general manager Virginia Henderson says the organisation is “thrilled to have another one of our women members competing at this level on the world stage. It is certainly an inspiration to future champions and promotes the growth of women in our sport. Courtney has all the Motorcycling New Zealand members and fans backing her to bring home the Women’s World Championship trophy this weekend.”
Immediately after celebrating her third consecutive set of double-race wins at Imola,
Italy, last month – successfully racing the new 2020 KX250 to victory in the last two rounds – Duncan extended her contract with Kawasaki Motors Europe and the Bike It DRT squad into the 2020 season.
“I’m very thankful and excited to announce that I have extended my contract with Kawasaki and DRT through 2020. I really feel at home with the team and feel the KX250 suits me perfectly. This is just the start and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can continue to achieve together in the future,” Duncan says.
Kawasaki New Zealand’s Managing Director Shane Verhoeven says the company has been proud to support Duncan’s campaign.
“Having Courtney show so much success this year has been truly inspirational for all Kiwis and for the team at Kawasaki. We look forward to her lining up this weekend to give it her all and wish her all the best!”