Comeback queen Duncan returns from injury to win MXGP of Spain

30 May 2022

New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan cemented herself as the reigning comeback queen at the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship’s (WMX) penultimate MXGP of Spain round, where she secured overall victory.

The Big Van World MTX Kawasaki rider, who hails from Otago, overcame a broken collarbone – injured at the second WMX round – to go 1-2 on the hardpack circuit of Intu-Xanadù – Arroyomolinos.

Although achieving a four-peat of world title is out of her grasp due to missing the third round a fortnight ago, as she allowed her plated collarbone to heal properly, Duncan still gave the Spanish races everything she had this weekend.

In race one Duncan had a strong start, moving quickly from third to second on the opening lap.

Home-country Spanish rider Daniela Guillén made several attempts to get around Duncan in the following laps. She was close on a couple of occasions, but small mistakes made it difficult to secure the position.

As the race wore on Duncan drew closer to the championship and race leader Dutchwoman Nancy Van De Ven.

At one point both Duncan and Guillen, who were second and third respectively, set an identical lap time of 2:08.337, which at that stage was the race’s fastest lap.

It was in lap 7 that the Kiwi ratcheted up her attack mode and moved around the outside of Van De Ven. Moments later Van De Ven made a mistake which gave Duncan the advantage she was looking for and she dived down the inside. By the next left-hand corner, she went past and into the race lead.

From there the defending and three-time consecutive World Women’s Motocross Champion settled into her work bringing her Kawasaki KX250 home with a 4.241sec advantage over Van De Ven and Guillen.

Duncan says winning her first race was immensely gratifying.

Celebrating her race one win at the MXGP of Spain, New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan flies high.  PHOTO CREDIT: MXGP

“Last month I was going under the knife going for surgery and to think I could be on the top step of the box in my first race back was a really proud feeling. I’ve battled through a lot of adversity, so it was cool to push through the other side of it.”

In race two, Duncan grabbed the holeshot as Germany’s Larissa Papenmeier followed closely in second and kept the Kawasaki rider within a close distance.

Spurred on by her country’s motocross fans in the crowd, Spanish rider Guillen passed Duncan for the lead on the 6th lap and held it to the chequered flag.

Duncan finished second ahead of Van De Ven and the 1-2 result gave her enough points for the overall win at her first weekend of racing in 12 weeks. Guillen celebrated on the second step of the box ahead of Van De Ven.

Duncan says she can be proud of her performance this weekend.

“Overall, I’m happy with the weekend. Definitely was a little bit rusty but that’s understandable after being out for a few months. There’s a lot we can take away from this weekend and build on which is exciting. We are not even close to where we can be.”

Cementing her comeback queen status, Courtney Duncan gave it everything to win the MXGP of Spain round.  PHOTO CREDIT: MXGP

“Huge thanks to everyone who supports me and I’m just so stoked to fly the Kiwi flag this weekend!” she says.

Duncan was pleased with her decision to sit out the third WMX round.

“My collarbone was really good this weekend because we opted to wait a couple of extra weeks to make it six in total before getting back on the bike. I think looking back at that, it was the smartest thing to do. I’ve been able to train properly since and raced pain-free.”

Duncan will spend the two-and-a-half-month gap in the series’ revised calendar back home in Dunedin, before returning to Europe to contest the fifth and final WMX round, the BitCi MXGP of Turkey on September 3 and 4.

“I’m looking forward to coming home and regrouping, recharging and putting in a lot of work. Hopefully we can be in a better position in the final round in September,” she says.

Kawasaki New Zealand’s Managing Director Shane Verhoeven says: “To say we’re proud of Courtney’s resilience is an understatement. Another gritty ride that ultimately put her on the top step of the podium after injury. The Kawasaki team here are looking forward to seeing her on home soil before she heads back in August for the final round.”

Results:

WMX – Race 1 – Top 10 Classification: 1. Courtney Duncan (NZL, Kawasaki), 24:55.386; 2. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, Yamaha), +0:04.241; 3. Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), +0:07.797; 4. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, Yamaha), +0:16.116; 5. Giorgia Blasigh (ITA, Yamaha), +0:51.750; 6. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), +0:55.859; 7. Tahlia Jade O’Hare (AUS, Honda), +1:01.647; 8. Lynn Valk (NED, Yamaha), +1:05.898; 9. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), +1:08.092; 10. Mathea Seleboe (NOR, Yamaha), +1:11.259;

WMX – Race 2 – Top 10 Classification: 1. Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), 24:53.325; 2. Courtney Duncan (NZL, Kawasaki), +0:08.176; 3. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, Yamaha), +0:14.630; 4. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, Yamaha), +0:15.104; 5. Lynn Valk (NED, Yamaha), +0:38.348; 6. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), +0:42.774; 7. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:48.586; 8. Tahlia Jade O’Hare (AUS, Honda), +1:11.898; 9. Giorgia Blasigh (ITA, Yamaha), +1:22.495; 10. Malou Jakobsen (DEN, KTM), +1:24.737;

WMX – Overall Top 10 Classification: 1. Courtney Duncan (NZL, KAW), 47 points; 2. Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), 45 p.; 3. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, YAM), 42 p.; 4. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, YAM), 36 p.; 5. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), 30 p.; 6. Lynn Valk (NED, YAM), 29 p.; 7. Giorgia Blasigh (ITA, YAM), 28 p.; 8. Tahlia Jade O’Hare (AUS, HON), 27 p.; 9. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, KAW), 23 p.; 10. Mathea Seleboe (NOR, YAM), 20 p.;

WMX – Championship Top 10 Classification: 1. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, YAM), 173 points; 2. Lynn Valk (NED, YAM), 148 p.; 3. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), 135 p.; 4. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, YAM), 132 p.; 5. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, KAW), 102 p.; 6. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), 100 p.; 7. Giorgia Blasigh (ITA, YAM), 96 p.; 8. Martine Hughes (NOR, HON), 95 p.; 9. Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), 85 p.; 10. Tahlia Jade O’Hare (AUS, HON), 83 p.;

Courtney Duncan on her way to winning the MXGP of Spain. PHOTO CREDIT: KAWASAKI.

 

2022 FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship Calendar  

Round 1: Saturday 5 March, MXGP of Lombardia, Mantova, Italy.

Round 2: Saturday 2 April, MXGP of Portugal, Agueda.

Round 3: Saturday 14 May, MXGP of Sardegna, Riola Sardo, Sardinia.

Round 4: Saturday 28 May, MXGP of Spain, intu Xanadú.

Round 5: Saturday 3 September, MXGP of Turkey, Afyonkarahisar.

 

Words: Catherine Pattison

Duncan to focus on recovery and final two WMX rounds

13 May 2022

Reigning World Women’s Motocross Champion Courtney Duncan will sit out the third round at the MXGP of Sardegna this weekend to allow her injured collarbone more healing time.

It is a considered decision yet still a bitter blow to the hard-fighting New Zealander who will now not be able to execute a fourth WMX title in a row. She plans to return to the world stage in two weeks’ time at the MXGP of Spain.

“As a racer it can always be a difficult decision knowing when’s the right time to come back, as obviously you don’t want to return too early and step yourself further back. Sitting out the Sardegna GP wasn’t taken lightly but I know it’s the right thing to do, as the recovery would have been rushed and I wouldn’t have been ready. At elite level you need to be at 100 percent to commit to the task and we aren’t there yet,” Duncan says.
While riding in the free practice session at the second round’s MXGP of Portugal early in April, Duncan had a heavy fall from her Kawasaki KX250. Since then, she has had the break in her collarbone plated by a surgeon and spent some time in Southern France with a friend.

“I stayed with a mate for a couple of weeks and it was good to hang out with a friend and take my mind off everything that had happened,” she says.

Ever the focused athlete, Duncan didn’t let her fitness slide and says she was still in the gym twice daily.

She definitely felt the distance from home as she processed how her season will now look, she says. The incredibly unforgiving nature of her chosen sport means the highs are mountaintops, but the lows are ground down in the mud.

“Every contact you have with extreme sport does come with a risk of getting injured. The rewards are huge but the consequences are huge too. It’s something we are aware of when we step onto the turf. That’s the beauty of elite sport.”

While Duncan’s aim was to claim a four-peat title victory, she has accepted that her injury has meant that the goal posts have shifted.

“We can’t change it, so we’ve switched our focus to making a strong comeback to racing for the last two rounds,” Duncan says.

Duncan will fly home to Dunedin in June, making the most of the two-and-a-half-month gap in the series’ revised calendar before returning to Europe to contest the final WMX round in Turkey on September 3.

Kawasaki New Zealand’s Managing Director Shane Verhoeven says: “Although disappointing Courtney will not line up behind the gate this weekend, it’s the reasonable decision. I’m sure that with some time off, we will see a rejuvenated athlete at the final two rounds that will define her 2023 season. For now, we wish Courtney all the best during her recovery and look forward to catching up during her break in June/July after round 4 in Spain.”

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2022 FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship Calendar 

Round 1: Saturday 5 March, MXGP of Lombardia, Mantova, Italy.

Round 2: Saturday 2 April, MXGP of Portugal, Agueda.

Round 3: Saturday 14 May, MXGP of Sardegna, Riola Sardo, Sardinia.

Round 4: Saturday 28 May, MXGP of Spain, intu Xanadú.

Round 5: Saturday 20 August, MXGP of Charente Maritime, St Jean d’Angely, France.

Round 6: Saturday 3 September, MXGP of Turkey, Afyonkarahisar.

Kiwi motocross star Courtney Duncan will focus on a full recovery before returning to racing in two weeks time.

Pictured with her mechanic Jordan Vaughan, Courtney Duncan’s decision to sit out this weekend’s round in Sardinia has been made with the support of her Kawasaki Bike It Dixon Racing Team. 

Photos: Monster Energy

THREE WINS FROM THREE STARTS FOR KAWASAKI ACE

APRIL 19, 2022:

With three wins from three starts, Cambridge’s Jared Hannon proved himself unbeatable in the chase for junior honours in this year’s New Zealand’s Cross-country Championships.

With points from only three of the series’ four rounds to be counted towards the national title, Kawasaki ace Hannon now has nothing to fear at the fourth and final round in Central Hawke’s Bay next month.

The national title already belongs to Hannon after he completed an impressive 1-1-1 score-card with wins at rounds two and three in the Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay over the long Easter Weekend.

The 16-year-old set himself up nicely for the junior title win when he won the opening round of the series near Marton in late February, crossing the finish line just ahead of fellow Kawasaki star Tyler Brown, from Pukekawa.

As Brown turned 17 soon after, and was therefore no longer eligible to continue in the junior competition, he was unable to challenge Hannon at the rounds that followed seven weeks later – although there were still plenty of other extremely fast junior riders to keep Hannon honest.

But Hannon had the measure of them too, winning the 90-minute junior race at round two near Pahiatua/Masterton on Saturday and repeating the dose at round three near Dannevirke on Easter Monday.

Runner-up to Hannon on Saturday was Te Awamutu’s Nixon Parkes (KTM), with New Plymouth’s Josh Houghton (Husqvarna) claiming third place, while runner-up to Hannon on Monday was Parkes again, with New Plymouth’s Blake Lusk (Yamaha) finishing third on that occasion.

“I just loved the track here (at Dannevirke). It was right up my alley,” said Hannon afterwards.

“There were heaps of different lines to choose from, but the track was so slick in places. I was pretty consistent, choosing lines off the main race lines was the secret.”

This is Hannon’s first title win in the national cross-country championships, although he has previously won national mini motocross, Woodville Motocross Grand Prix titles and three New Zealand Mini TT Championship titles.

“Next year I will be a senior racer. I will certainly give it a good crack to try and win again.

“I want to thank Kawasaki New Zealand for helping to make this happen and I couldn’t have done it without my parents either.”

Meanwhile, Oparau’s James Scott (Honda) led virtually from start to finish to win the three-hour senior races on both days over Easter, on each occasion taking the chequered flag ahead of Napier’s Tommy Watts (Yamaha), with Taupo’s Wil Yeoman (Yamaha) finishing third both times.

Similarly to Hannon, Scott also wrapped up his senior title with a round to spare.

The fourth and final round is to be held in Central Hawke’s Bay on May 15.

Although the main titles are now decided, there are positions still to be finalised in the various engine capacity classes, so there is plenty to race for at the final round.

 

2022 NZ Cross-Country Champs

Round One – Sunday, February 27 – Bush Riders MCC, Marton

Round Two – Saturday, April 16 – Bush Riders MCC, Masterton/Pahiatua

Round Three – Monday, April 18 – Central Hawke’s Bay MCC, Dannevirke

Round Four – Sunday, May 15 – Central Hawke’s Bay MCC.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

Injury hampers Duncan’s title defence

4 April 2022

New Zealand motocross rider Courtney Duncan knows what tough times feel like and unfortunately her start to the 2022 World Women’s Motocross Championship (WMX) has been a rough one.

While riding in the free practice session at the second round’s MXGP of Portugal on Saturday, the three-time, consecutive world champion had a heavy fall from her Kawasaki KX250.

“I had a big crash early on in practice and although I finished the session, I was in pain, so I had X-rays at the track. They showed a break to my collarbone. I lined up for the first race but due to FIM rules I was unable to ride and got withdrawn.”

Duncan has been quick to act, mindful there is still a six-week gap until the third WMX round in Sardinia on May 14.

“At this stage we are unsure of the full extent of the injury, however I’ve already arrived in Belgium where I’m scheduled to meet with the surgeon tomorrow to decide what the next step is.”

This misfortune comes on the back of an uncharacteristically low-placed first round, where the best Duncan (25) could manage was sixth place overall. She had arrived late in Europe and on the back foot after visa hold-up issues left her with no time to properly prepare for the intensity of world-class competition.

Lady luck didn’t look after Duncan following the Italian round and a shoulder injury incurred in training soon afterwards meant she had not been able to train for several weeks before Portugal.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow and injuries never get easier. However, that’s sport, it doesn’t always go your way and shit happens. Tomorrow is another day and I’ll wake up, lace my shoes up and give it 100 percent,  just like I always do.”

Kawasaki New Zealand’s General Manager Mike Cotter says: “It was a real shame to hear of Courtney’s injury. Her champion nature and resolve will ensure she will be back behind the gate and fighting for wins again this season. I wish her all the best with her recovery.”

 

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2022 FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship Calendar 

Round 1: Saturday 5 March, MXGP of Lombardia, Mantova, Italy.

Round 2: Saturday 2 April, MXGP of Portugal, Agueda.

Round 3: Saturday 14 May, MXGP of Sardegna, Riola Sardo, Sardinia.

Round 4: Saturday 28 May, MXGP of Spain, intu Xanadú.

Round 5: Saturday 20 August, MXGP of Charente Maritime, St Jean d’Angely, France.

Round 6: Saturday 3 September, MXGP of Turkey, Afyonkarahisar.

Photo: Monster Energy

Climb starts for Duncan after tough opening round

7 March 2022

A less than ideal build up has meant for the first time in seven years, triple World Women’s Motocross (WMX) Champion Courtney Duncan has not won a race at the opening round.

The Palmerston-born Kiwi had been delayed in New Zealand waiting for her visa to come through, meaning she only arrived in Europe days before her first round in Italy.

“It was a difficult weekend to say the least. A P3 and P9 for sixth overall is not how you want to start the championship,” a disappointed Duncan says.

She began her 2022 campaign at the MXGP of Lombardia with a roar, grabbing the holeshot in race one and leading for the first laps. Landing slightly wide on a jump gave Dutch rider Lynn Valk enough of a gap to slip past Duncan.

As the race continued on Duncan’s least preferred surface of sand at the Mantova circuit, Nancy Van De Ven, of the Netherlands, managed to pass her for second.

It would end up being Van De Ven’s round victory as she went on to win race two and claim the red plate. A first corner crash meant Duncan’s second race was effectively doused before it fully began. Although she picked herself up quickly and charged through the pack, ninth was as high as she could get.

“The whole build up wasn’t great with only arriving in Europe this week and trying to acclimatize. I hadn’t ridden my KX250 race bike and went straight into the sand. All that puts you on the back foot and clearly it showed this weekend. I just wasn’t myself,” Duncan says.

If anyone has proved they have what it takes to claw back up to the top, it’s Duncan (25). She put in three long years of hard graft before lifting her first championship trophy in 2019 with Kawasaki’s Bike It Dixon Racing Team (DRT) and she won’t be losing sight of adding a fourth consecutive title after five more WMX rounds in September.

“I need to keep positive. It’s a long season and we’ll build from here,” Duncan vows.

Kawasaki New Zealand’s Managing Director Shane Verhoeven says: “Issues outside of Courtney’s control took its toll over the two races. With a little more preparation and acclimatisation I’m sure we’ll see the characteristic fight we’re used to. Courtney’s fans have been treated to many of her trademark comebacks over her career and this is a position she excels in. I look forward to the next round in Portugal.”

Duncan has a month to regroup before the second WMX round in Portugal on April 2.

WMX – Race 1 – Top 10 Classification: 1. Lynn Valk (NED, Yamaha), 25:10.327; 2. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, Yamaha), +0:06.374; 3. Courtney Duncan (NZL, Kawasaki), +0:06.658; 4. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:34.221; 5. Martine Hughes (NOR, Honda), +0:37.406; 6. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), +1:02.150; 7. Giorgia Blasigh (ITA, Yamaha), +1:20.566; 8. Malou Jakobsen (DEN, KTM), +1:22.264; 9. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), +1:24.444; 10. Anne Borchers (GER, Suzuki), +1:28.519;

WMX – Race 2 – Top 10 Classification: 1. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, Yamaha), 25:38.399; 2. Lynn Valk (NED, Yamaha), +0:07.896; 3. Martine Hughes (NOR, Honda), +0:13.879; 4. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), +0:17.672; 5. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:30.600; 6. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, Yamaha), +0:35.046; 7. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), +0:51.401; 8. Elisa Galvagno (ITA, Husqvarna), +0:56.345; 9. Courtney Duncan (NZL, Kawasaki), +1:01.276; 10. Mathea Seleboe (NOR, Yamaha), +1:17.014;

WMX – Overall Top 10 Classification: 1. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, YAM), 47 points; 2. Lynn Valk (NED, YAM), 47 p.; 3. Martine Hughes (NOR, HON), 36 p.; 4. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, KAW), 34 p.; 5. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), 33 p.; 6. Courtney Duncan (NZL, KAW), 32 p.; 7. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), 26 p.; 8. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, YAM), 25 p.; 9. Malou Jakobsen (DEN, KTM), 23 p.; 10. Giorgia Blasigh (ITA, YAM), 21 p.;

WMX – Championship Top 10 Classification: 1. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, YAM), 47 points; 2. Lynn Valk (NED, YAM), 47 p.; 3. Martine Hughes (NOR, HON), 36 p.; 4. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, KAW), 34 p.; 5. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), 33 p.; 6. Courtney Duncan (NZL, KAW), 32 p.; 7. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), 26 p.; 8. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, YAM), 25 p.; 9. Malou Jakobsen (DEN, KTM), 23 p.; 10. Giorgia Blasigh (ITA, YAM), 21 p.;

WMX – Manufacturers Classification: 1. Yamaha, 50 points; 2. Honda, 36 p.; 3. Kawasaki, 36 p.; 4. KTM, 33 p.; 5. Husqvarna, 19 p.; 6. Suzuki, 16 p.; 7. GASGAS, 1 p.;

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2022 FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship Calendar 

Round 1: Saturday 5 March, MXGP of Lombardia, Mantova, Italy.

Round 2: Saturday 2 April, MXGP of Portugal, Agueda.

Round 3: Saturday 14 May, MXGP of Sardegna, Riola Sardo, Sardinia.

Round 4: Saturday 28 May, MXGP of Spain, intu Xanadú.

Round 5: Saturday 20 August, MXGP of Charente Maritime, St Jean d’Angely, France.

Round 6: Saturday 3 September, MXGP of Turkey, Afyonkarahisar.

 

Photo: Kawasaki Eu

KAWASAKI DUO IN TIGHT BATTLE FOR JUNIOR GRADE GLORY

FEBRUARY 28, 2022:

The nation’s cross-country racing elite would probably have been green with envy when the chequered flag fell in the junior race at Marton at the weekend.

Kawasaki team-mates Jared Hannon and Tyler Brown were almost unstoppable in the junior grade at this first of four rounds in the 2022 New Zealand Cross-country Championships, held on steep Rangitikei farmland on Sunday.

The two motocross riders took their distinctive green MR Motorcycles Kawasaki bikes to finish 1-2 in the 90-minute gut-buster, separated by just 78 seconds at the end, with New Plymouth’s Josh Houghton (Husqvarna) finishing only 39 seconds further back to claim the third step on the podium.

“I don’t know what the winning secret was for me today,” said Cambridge teenager Hannon. “I just think it was a matter of twisting the throttle hard and that generally keeps you going straight. Of course, if it doesn’t, then you’re in a lot of trouble,” the 16-year-old laughed.

“I was just praying I had enough fuel to finish the last lap. It was my first cross-country race on a four-stroke bike and it was awesome. And an electric start makes all the difference too.

“I didn’t expect to win. I didn’t even know I was going to be doing this race until last week. Dad told me the race was on and I decided to give it a crack.”

And while 2021 national junior 250cc motocross champion Brown would have loved to win the race against his friend on Sunday, he said that accepting runner-up spot to team-mate Hannon was still immensely satisfying.

“This is the only event anyway that I am still eligible to race as a junior, so I could not really hope anyway to win that title this year. I turn 17 shortly and will switch across to the senior ranks.

“Today was really just practice for me,” said Brown, a pupil at Onewhero Area School.

Points from only the best three results from the four rounds will be counted towards the championship titles, with riders to discard their worst result, so Brown will still possibly be a contender in the chase for senior grade glory.

“I have not raced a cross-country event in a while, so I was pretty stoked to finish second today,” said Brown. “I knew Jared (Hannon) would be fast.”

Meanwhile, Oparau’s James Scott led virtually from start to finish to win the three-hour senior race later in the afternoon, taking the chequered flag just over a minute ahead of Wairoa’s Tommy Watt and two minutes ahead of third-placed rider Wil Yeoman, of Taupo.

The next two rounds follow closely together, with round two set for farmland near Pahiatua on Saturday, April 16, and round three near Dannevirke just two days later, on Easter Monday, April 18. The venue for the fourth and final round on May 14 is yet to be confirmed.

 

2022 NZ Cross-Country Champs

Round One – Sunday, February 27 – Bush Riders MCC, Marton

Round Two – Saturday, April 16 – Bush Riders MCC, Pahiatua

Round Three – Monday, April 18 – Central Hawke’s Bay MCC, Dannevirke

Round Four – Saturday, May 14 – Host club and venue to be decided.

Duncan working towards a four-peat

22 February 2022

Complacency is not a feeling Courtney Duncan is familiar with, and the fire still burns bright for the three-time consecutive World Women’s Motocross (WMX) Champion to add a fourth title in 2022.

Born in Palmerston and based in Dunedin over her off-season, Duncan (25) is constantly searching for the extra percentage that will give her the edge over her hard-charging rivals. Over the past few months, she has been working closely with High Performance Sport NZ.

“It’s been cool to have opportunities to train with some different athletes and work with the crew there. They’ve helped us to look for ways to be better – especially off the bike. The high performance team has been monitoring the way we are tracking and looking for small improvements here and there. As we get better, those improvements are just small percentages, but they all count and overall I’m just continually trying to be better,” Duncan says.

She recently re-signed with Kawasaki Europe and New Zealand for a further two years, continuing the stunning streak of success that began in 2019 when she won the first of her three world championships with the green team.

Racing for the English Kawasaki outfit Bike It Dixon Racing Team (DRT), Duncan says the freshly inked deal makes for some “exciting times ahead.”

“It’s always nice to have the reassurance of a two-year contract. We know what to expect and obviously we’ve had a lot of success there. We’ve been to the top three times before with the same team and the same brand and hopefully we can carry on that success.”

Duncan’s continuity extends to the DRT mechanic that she’s been working with for the past two years and Jordy Vaughan will once again oversee the fine-tuning of her 2022 KX250.

“I’ve been working with Jordy for the past few seasons and he has been part of the team since the beginning. A mechanic is vital to our performance and we need to have a good relationship there. We’ve worked well together in the past and I’m happy he’s staying on board.”

Duncan, who is a 2022 Halberg Awards nominee for sportswoman of the year, achieved a resounding 31-point championship victory at the final 2021 WMX round at Italy’s Pietramurata venue. The desire to hold this year’s winner’s trophy aloft is just as strong, she says.

“It’s another year with another new start and another opportunity to chase another championship. Trying to get the four-peat is obviously the goal. At the same time my thoughts aren’t purely on that. It’s in the back of my mind but I’m just doing the day-to-day processes, ticking off all the boxes and putting in the prep. It’s another big challenge this year but I’m always up for a challenge!”

Duncan plans to travel home to New Zealand between the six WMX rounds – which are spread out from the season-opener on March 5 in Italy, and encompass Portugal, Sardinia, Spain and France before the final Turkey-based round on September 3. While the new self-isolation rules come into play next month, after the uncertainty surrounding returning to New Zealand following her third WMX championship win in October, due to the MIQ lottery system, she is not booking any return airfares yet.

“I’m not looking too far afield and am just knuckling down. This first GP is where the focus lies and getting off to a good start to the season.”

With the 2022 New Zealand Motocross Championship cancelled due to Covid-19, Duncan lost the chance to get some race time in before she returns to Europe. Fortunately, she has a good crew of local riders around her to ensure she doesn’t slip off the pace.

“I’ve been out riding with my mates and we’re always pushing each other and having fun.”

There’s nothing like the first gate drop of the season and Duncan is pumped for it.

“It will be good to get stuck in and get into that first one. There’s always a little bit of extra nerves and excitement before it. There’s been a few months since we’ve been behind the line on the world stage. I’m sure once we get into the mode, everything will be sweet.”

She thanked everyone involved in her campaign for their support and vowed to fly the New Zealand flag high and do her best to put the Kawasaki brand on top again.

Kawasaki New Zealand’s Managing Director Shane Verhoeven says: “With no national championship in New Zealand this season, the anticipation to watch Courtney back in action is huge. I wish her all the best and trust her off-season training and experience will result in a positive outcome.”

“This will be Courtney’s second year on the new generation KX250 so her team already has a strong base knowledge of the machine and will be better equipped to make her comfortable.”

Duncan will fly to Europe as soon as her visa is processed and will start her 2022 campaign on  Saturday 5 March at the MXGP of Lombardia, in Mantova, Italy.

 

Courtney Duncan gets some outdoor cross-training in over summer, climbing to the summit of the Remarkables’ Single Cone peak in Queenstown.

Courtney Duncan trains at the NZ Fight And Fitness Academy with the Highlanders.

 

Courtney Duncan’s long-term DRT mechanic Jordy Vaughan will once again oversee the fine tuning of her 2022 KX250.

Courtney Duncan features in Monster Energy’s latest drop Against All Odds.

Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

2022 FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship Calendar 

Round 1: Saturday 5 March, MXGP of Lombardia, Mantova, Italy.

Round 2: Saturday 2 April, MXGP of Portugal, Agueda.

Round 3: Saturday 14 May, MXGP of Sardegna, Riola Sardo, Sardinia.

Round 4: Saturday 28 May, MXGP of Spain, intu Xanadú.

Round 5: Saturday 20 August, MXGP of Charente Maritime, St Jean d’Angely, France.

Round 6: Saturday 3 September, MXGP of Turkey, Afyonkarahisar.

KAWASAKI’S NATZKE IN TOP FORM AS USA ADVENTURE BECKONS

FEBRUARY 20, 2022: With opportunities to ride typically closed off by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the extraordinary chance to race on Saturday was snatched at by many of New Zealand’s motocross elite.

And one rider who had more to gain from this rare moment of brightness on the racing calendar was Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke, along with his fellow Bridgestone Kawasaki Racing Team mates.

One after another, the huge annual Whakatane Summercross, the big annual New Zealand Motocross at Woodville and then the 2022 New Zealand Motocross Championships series fell victim to virus control measures, although there were still signs that the twice-postponed annual Waikato Motocross Championships might still go ahead.

And so, when the green light was eventually given by the host North King Country Motorcycle Club that their event would still run, albeit carefully managed under health guidelines, racers and their support crews flocked to the Waikato Motocross Championships track just outside Te Kuiti on Saturday.

It was a Who’s Who of Kiwi motocross talent that arrived for the one-day spectacle on Saturday, all of them keen to get back to some serious racing.

The 23-year-old Natzke, who is next month due to head to the United States to compete in the nationals there, was especially keen to complete some “training” and test himself against fellow New Zealand championship-level riders, before he boards his flight on March 15.

And it could not have gone any better for the Kawasaki star.

Natzke recorded three wins from three starts in the MX2 (250cc) class on Saturday, finishing ahead of KTM’s multi-time former national MX2 champion Harwood and Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly (Yamaha).

“I’m really gelling with the bike. We’ve used the same settings from the year before and it feels great,” said Natzke.

“It has been hard for everyone to get motivated (because of the pandemic). I knew everyone would be here and, while not everyone is on their A game, but it’s been able to race with all the top guys again.

“I leave for America next month and I’ll be there for three or four months. I’ll race the first couple of rounds of the US outdoor nationals in the 250cc class, riding for Kawasaki. I just need to see where things take me. I have a place to stay, I have a bike and a vehicle and I’m heading across early, well before the series starts, just to get used to everything.

“There are a lot of unknowns, although I did race there once before, when I was aged about 10. Kawasaki New Zealand have been fantastic in supporting me and I’m looking forward to performing.”

Meanwhile, the men in green also had good reason to celebrate in the MX1 class on Saturday, with Kawasaki riders claiming four of the top seven spots, ably led by multi-time former MX1 champion and Kawasaki newcomer Cody Cooper.

The MX1 class was won by West Auckland’s Harwood, finishing the day ahead of Cooper and Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis (Yamaha), with Kawasaki pair Micah McGoldrick, from Tauranga, and Kaukapakapa’s Josh Jack rounding out the top five positions overall.

Mount Maunganui’s Cooper exclaimed that he was absolutely thrilled with his first competitive outing on the new Kawasaki KX450F, saying it was “the best bike I’ve ever ridden, stock standard and just straight out of the crate …”

Waitoku’s Cole Davies dominated the 125cc class on Saturday, while Cambridge’s Jared Hannon and Taranaki’s Rian King completed the 125cc podium.

Another Kawasaki rider, Te Puke’s Flynn Watts, won the handicap feature final, where riders were set off at intervals, determined by their fastest lap times throughout the day. Watts, aged just 15, remarkably finished that novelty race ahead of fellow 250cc rider Hannon and 450cc rider Cooper.

Kawasaki Racing Team ready for 2022 MXGP campaign

The Kawasaki Racing Team will again enter the FIM Motocross World Championship with a strong line-up in the premier MXGP class; the 2022 series starts on February 19-20 at Matterley Basin (UK).

2021 was an epic end-of-season as three riders battled all the way down to the final moto for the title and with the silver medal, headed by the slenderest of margins, Romain Febvre gave Kawasaki its best-ever result in the premier MXGP class. The thirty-year-old Frenchman will again be the leader of KRT after signing a new two-year-deal directly with the Japanese factory which will now be even more deeply-involved in the new project as the reins of the Kawasaki Racing Team pass to Formula One legend Kimi Raikkonen and past motocross GP winner Antti Pyrhonen. Both have been involved in the sport for many years and celebrate their tenth anniversary in MXGP this year. In fact, their first season together was on private Kawasaki machinery, and they are now back in Green to run the Factory Kawasaki Racing Team assault with full support from KMC Japan and KME. England’s Ben Watson, a long-time training partner of Romain Febvre, will enter his second season in the MXGP class after a strong learning year in 2021; the young British talent is ready to enter the pre-season races this weekend on the island of Sardinia and one week later in France.

Steve Guttridge (Race Planning Manager – Kawasaki Motors Europe – KME): “In October of 2021 a new company and legal entity known as Kawasaki Motors Ltd – KMC was established in Japan to focus more directly on the Kawasaki motorcycle business which includes our factory racing team projects. The new company and management will be strategically involved in utilising the Kawasaki Racing Team’s MXGP racing activity, along with their own Research and Development. inside the MXGP arena more directly than in the past to integrate innovations into future KX production models for our worldwide customer base to use in their own racing endeavours. The Kawasaki Racing Team MXGP has a massive and complex role to fulfil; we believe that the team will continue to help us make big strides towards our ultimate goal of becoming MXGP World Champion. “

Kimi Räikkönen (Team principal – KRT MXGP): “It’s no secret that, for me, one of my great passions in life for many years has been motocross but this team is not what you might call a hobby; it’s very serious, very focused and we aspire to be the best we possibly can. Now I have retired from racing I will be able to spend more time on this project; not on the daily issues but more from a strategic point of view using my experience of how teams work and what creates success on the world stage. Everyone including myself is delighted that Kawasaki has chosen us to be the Factory team. I know that the chance of success is always greater with direct factory support so this translates into a great opportunity for us as the new Kawasaki Racing Team in MXGP.”

Antti Pyrhonen (Team manager – KRT MXGP): “Since I joined Kimi’s team ten years ago we have never stop working hard to get the best results in the MXGP class and, after we achieved some good results with numerous wins and podiums, we now have the opportunity to work closely with a prestigious factory. We have been working on this new project for several months already and we are of course delighted to have this opportunity to join Kawasaki and to run the Kawasaki Racing Team. The MXGP class is the pinnacle of our sport and we know how competitive the series is, but we are looking to this new challenge with optimism as we have two strong and fast riders to enter this new chapter with a factory behind us.”

Romain Febvre: “For sure it has not been my best winter since I started racing. It’s always frustrating to be recovering from an injury while your rivals are working on the tracks but that’s how it is; injuries are part of our sport. My recovery is going well and I can’t wait to get back on my Kawasaki. The championship will again be long and I will do my best to start racing as soon as possible. 2021 was definitely a great season for me; I felt so comfortable on the KX450-SR and I was fighting for the title until the very last moto. Signing a two-year factory deal with Japan was good for my confidence, and it is another boost to be involved in the new project from day one.”

Ben Watson: “There aren’t so many factory rides in the MXGP class so I’m very proud to be selected by the Kawasaki Racing Team for my second year in this championship. It’s a new chapter of my career and it’s great to work closely with Romain; we know and appreciate each other as we have trained together in the past. I learnt a lot during my rookie season and I am confident for the season ahead as I have seen how strong the team is after sharing time together for a couple of months already. It’s really exciting to be part of this new challenge.”