Courtney Duncan has raced the smartest of her short but stunning international career in the Czech Republic this weekend, to wrest back the red plate at the fourth round of the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship.
Held at the hard pack and challenging Loket, circuit, the two-day MXGP of Czech Republic saw Duncan (21) record a near perfect 1-2 set of results. Her cool, calm and calculated race craft enabled her to spring-board back up the leaderboard, from third in the previous round, to now lead Italy’s Kiara Fontanesi by three points and defending champion Livia Lancelot, of France, by seven points.
Her coach, fellow New Zealander Josh Coppins, says he was proud of what she achieved this weekend and he “couldn’t be happier” with his #151 Altherm JCR Yamaha racer’s performance, in what is only her second season competing at the highest international level.
“It was an important race to get back the red plate with only two rounds to go now. She’s improved hugely not necessarily as a faster rider but as a smarter rider, so that’s what we have been working hard on,” Coppins says.
The first race started out with the Netherlands’ Shana Van der Vlist leading the way but she quickly dropped positions to the heavy hitters and title contenders. In the end Duncan, came back from eighth place on the first lap to make a pass on Fontanesi only two corners before the finish, to take an incredibly, well-executed win.
Interviewed after the race by MXGPTV, Duncan talked about a controlled race strategy.
“I got a terrible start actually and got pushed wide on the first corner and had to come from really far back. In my sighting lap I knew that it was really slippery, so I knew I just had to be patient on the first opening laps so I didn’t risk any passes on the other riders. I found my way to fourth and then just took it from there,” Duncan said.
Sunday’s race two started with a holeshot from Belgium’s Armandine Verstappen who was chased hard by Duncan. She stayed on the back of Verstappen for the first half of the race before losing traction in a corner and going down, and while Duncan didn’t lose the position she did drop 16 seconds off the lead.
Behind Duncan and Verstappen, it was Fontanessi charging forward from a sixth on the first lap to the back wheel of Livia Lancelot in third. The two former champions eventually came together after Fontanesi’s inside line faded to the outside and into Lancelot.
Coppins had high praise for Duncan.
“Probably the best she has ridden for me at a GP since she started doing them. Finally, she took her time and was very calculated and patient. She understands she doesn’t need to win every lap and every corner. She took her time and pick and choose the right moments to make passes and took her time to get the job done.”
“So from a team point of view it has been very successful. Obviously to get the red plate is very important but for me above all of that it was the performance that I was most happy with and her patience which is what has been her weak point up until now,” he says.
Duncan is based in Dunedin when back home in New Zealand but has been living in Europe since April. Over the past eight weeks since the last WMX round she says she has been training really hard and it has obviously paid off.
She looks forward now to her favoured conditions, in the Dutch GP sand on September 9 and 10.
Duncan thanked her team, sponsors, family and friends for their on-going support. She also gave a special shout-out to her mechanic Bjorn Stockmans.
“He works daylight to dark for me and I wouldn’t be here without him,” she says.