Duncan’s defence on track with double victories in Loket

Dunedin’s Kawasaki rider Courtney Duncan leads the 2021 FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship with two wins at the opening round in Loket, Czech Republic.

New Zealand’s double FIM Women’s Motocross World Champion (WMX) Courtney Duncan kicked off her title defence in dominant style, going 1-1 and winning the opening Czech Republic round in Loket yesterday.

The Bike IT MTX Kawasaki rider, who hails from Dunedin, not only leads the championship by 10 points, she notched up several other significant career milestones. Her double victories were the third time she has won both races at the WMX’s season’s first round. They also bought her race win tally to 30, podium total to 20 and GP victories to 15.

“It definitely feels good going 1-1 in the season-opener. There’s a lot of hype leading in. Another GP win and a red plate leading into round two is very positive,” Duncan (25) says.

“It was good to get back into the world competition. There’s a lot of expectations and a lot of pressure on the world stage but that’s something that I crave and definitely have been missing. But at the same time it’s taken a little bit to get used to and adjust to. I’m not going to lie, there’s quite a bit of nerves, mixed emotions and all the excitement that comes with it. Once I’ve got that first race out of the way, I was feeling good moving forward.”

In race one, Duncan showed her rivals she meant business, taking the holeshot while several riders including, Kiara Fontanesi, Larissa Papenmeier and Nancy Van De Ven got caught up in a first turn incident.

Duncan then led Shana Van Der Vlist and Lynn Valk, who got around Amadine Verstappen, while Fontanesi, Papenmeier and Van De Ven were fighting their way up to the top five.

Lap by lap, Duncan edged out further, while Van De Ven, Fontanesi and Papenmeier continued their charge for valuable championship points. In the end Duncan won the race by an impressive 22.534 seconds over Van Der Vlist, while Valk placed third.

In race two, it was Papenmeier who got a flying start, though a couple of corners later Duncan passed her for the lead. While Duncan started the second heat much like the first, this time around Papenmeier kept close to the Kiwi for several laps. And while the German searched for a way around the defending champion, it was Fontanesi who was the fastest rider on track as she caught up with the two leading ladies.

As Fontanesi diced with Papenmeier, Duncan seized the opportunity to open up a gap, as the two women behind  were locked in battle.

With three laps to go, Duncan got caught up with a backmarker and while she went down, she picked herself up quickly to take the race win ahead of Papenmeier and Van De Ven.

With two race wins, Duncan was the overall round winner, with Van Der Vlist second and Papenmeier third. This is also how the championship standings look, as the women head into round two next weekend in Lommel, Belgium.

 “I don’t feel too different to last year, when I was also defending the championship and I feel every year I still have a little bit of pressure and a target on my back, but I just do the best I can do each weekend and that’s all I can ask for,” Duncan says.

Incredibly, she hadn’t swung a leg over her race Kawasaki KX250 bike until the lights went green in race one.

“My build up was okay – it wasn’t excellent. We did what we could with what we had. My mechanic got Covid a few weeks ago and a few things weren’t smooth. I didn’t get to ride the race bike until today. That’s always hard to adjust to on race day.”

“From now on in we can continue to improve. I do feel like I was far from my best – a little bit rusty. I can only get better from here on in,” Duncan wraps up.

Kawasaki New Zealand’s Managing Director Shane Verhoeven says: “Another brilliant display of grit and determination from Courtney. It’s good to see her get into her stride early in the season with limited time to gel with her new race bike. We look forward to seeing her build momentum at the upcoming races.”

Words: Catherine Pattison