New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan has become the first Kiwi woman to win a FIM World MX Championship title, when she won the first race in the Women’s Motocross World Championship’s final round in Turkey overnight. She is flanked by her Bike It Dixon Racing Team owner Steve Dixon (left) and mechanic Nick Matthews (right) with the special gold helmet her sponsor Just 1 presented her with post-race.
New Zealand motocross sensation Courtney Duncan has done it – crossing the finish line of the Women’s Motocross World Championship’s first race, punching both firsts in the air, index fingers pointed skyward in the international symbol for number one.
After riding immaculately throughout the MXGP of Turkey’s 20-minute, plus two laps race, she stamped her global dominance on the 10 other WMX riders, winning it by a whopping 12.818secs and earning herself an unassailable lead, with one race still to run tonight (NZ time).
An emotional Duncan entered the pit lane area on her Kawasaki KX250, where her British-based Kawasaki team Bike It Dixon Racing Team (DRT), friends and family were waiting to envelope her with hugs. She shouted out one word that summed up the three long, hard years she has been waiting for this moment.
Tears of joy quickly spilled into her helmet as she absorbed all that she has achieved.
“What a day! What a day! It’s indescribable right now. There were some big emotions after the race. So much gets built into this. This goes way back to when I started when I was 7-years of age. Everything goes into this. So much effort from my family – they did so much for me growing up to get me to this point. All my team, my sponsors everyone back over home. I have a huge team at home, and everyone plays a huge part in this championship. It was definitely a team effort. I can’t thank everyone enough,” Duncan says.
The 23-year-old Otago rider could not have scripted her maiden championship victory any more perfectly. After topping both timed practise outings, she was confident lining up in the start gates in the 30degC heat, facing the well-watered circuit for the WMX’s first time racing at the Afyonkarahisar track.
She started off steadily, taking her time to find the right lines, initially settling into fourth place. Duncan then demonstrated her racing smarts by gradually picking off her main championship rivals German Larissa Papenmeier and Dutch woman Nancy Van De Ven over the first five laps.
There was a heart-in-mouth moment as Duncan went wide, making a outside passing move on Van De Ven and wobbled in a deep rut, but she held strong and began hunting down Denmark rider Sara Andersen.
Although the pair concertinaed for the lead over half a lap, Duncan soon out-classed Andersen, shot out in front and never looked back.
“Moto one was really good. I got asked did I feel pressure going into the race and I’ve got to be completely honest with you, lining up I felt so comfortable and confident. After the sight lap, I knew the track had changed a lot. I had it in my mind that I was going to warm up into the race, so I took a few laps, found some good lines and made the passes. Then I just kind of cruised and maintained the lead. It was good enough to win the championship in the first moto. It feels amazing! Duncan says.
“I don’t know how to describe it – the journey to get here has been tough. Man, it’s been tough! After winning my first pro race on debut [in 2016] I felt like I couldn’t do nothing wrong. Since then it’s been a downward slope but this year, we changed that and we turned it around and made it happen,” she adds.
Duncan picked up the maximum 25 points to bring her total to 214, which is 31 clear of Van de Ven on 183, meaning the last race at 8.30pm tonight (NZ time) is merely a formality. The race win today was Duncan’s eighth victory out of nine races this season, where she has been imperious, except for the second race in at the first round in Valkenswaard, Netherlands, where she slipped to fourth.
Duncan credited her new team, new-found motivation and commuting back home to New Zealand between rounds for her iron-clad control of the 2019 WMX season.
“I haven’t had to think about the races. I haven’t been waiting for them. I’ve been putting in the work and enjoying life outside of it,’’she says.
Contacting Duncan in the early hours of the morning here in New Zealand, it was late in the evening in Turkey. She was still at the track, with her team, soaking it all in.
“I’m enjoying the night, just celebrating and enjoying this championship. Everyone put so much work into it – it was a big team effort. It’s going to take a bit of time to fully settle in, what we have just achieved. I know I’m going to look back and realise that this was pretty special.”
Like many Courtney Duncan fans who couldn’t make it to Turkey, Kawasaki New Zealand’s Managing Director Shane Verhoeven was watching Duncan’s race live on MXGP-TV.
“The team at Kawasaki NZ are incredibly proud and ecstatic of Courtney’s domination of the 2019 WMX Championship. After many trials and tribulations over the years it is all the more satisfying to see her achieve her goal and to have played a small part in her success this season. Well done to Courtney and we look forward to seeing her back in Kiwi-land to celebrate her victory,” he said.
Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) general manager Virginia Henderson echoed Vehoeven’s sentiments, adding that the organisation was honoured that Duncan races under the MNZ banner.
“Courtney truly demonstrates that winning is never easy and that you have to persevere and work hard to achieve your dreams. I’m sure MNZ joins the whole New Zealand nation in congratulating Courtney on this extremely well-deserved championship victory.”
Duncan races again tonight in the final race 10 of the WMX’s five-round championship.
HOW TO WATCH
Visit MXGP TV via link below. Subscription for weekend coverage costs approx. 11 Euro.
Courtney Duncan’s race times in Turkey
Race 2: Sunday, September 8 11:30AM (20 mins + 2 laps) NZ time Sunday, September – 8.30PM
2019 Women’s Motocross World Championship’s calendar
Round 1: March 31st Valkenswaard, Netherlands
Round 2: May 19th Agueda, Portugal
Round 3: July 28th Loket, Czech Republic
Round 4: August 18th Imola, Italy
Round 5: September 8th Afyonkarahisar, Turkey
PHOTO CREDIT: MXGP