There’s no better place to be than out front when the dust settles on the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship penultimate round and that’s exactly where New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan stands.
Riding for the first time on the series-new intu-Xanadù track in Arroyomolinos, Spain, Duncan not only retained her red plate, but she also won the round and extended her lead out to 16 points over main rival, Italy’s Kiara Fontanesi.
By no means did Bike it MTX Kawasaki’s Duncan have it all go her way, and as always, she fought tooth and nail for her runner-up position in race one and victory in the second outing.
In the first race, Dutchwoman Shana Van der Vlist took the holeshot ahead of Fontanesi and Dutch rider Nancy Van De Ven, who quickly jumped into the lead.
Defending champion Duncan started the race in around fifth but moved quickly up to third after passes on Van der Vlist and home-country rider Gabriela Seisdedos.
Fontanesi continued to lead the race with a 1.711 second advantage to Van De Ven, as Duncan started to close in on the Dutch rider ahead of her.
Duncan then set the fastest lap of the race as she began to hunt down Fontanesi and before WMX fans knew it, there was a repeat of the previous round in Turkey. The two multi-time world champions embarked on an intense battle for the lead, and it got physical. They banged bars going around a corner, which resulted in Fontanesi going down.
The drama didn’t stop there and just as it looked like Duncan was going to take a race victory, she hit a rut while pulling her goggles’ tear-off and crashed. It allowed Van De Ven to take the lead and go on to win the race. Fontanesi caught on to the back of Duncan in the final laps, but unable to make a pass stick, she finished third.
Germany’s Larissa Papenmeier got the holeshot in race two, ahead of Van De Ven and Duncan. The Otago flyer then moved swiftly into second and set her sights on Papenmeier for the lead.
After taking it over, Duncan then clocked the fastest lap of the race as she extended her lead to 6.153 seconds over Van De Ven. The 25-year-old consecutive double world champion dominantly won the race by 19 seconds, taking the Spanish round crown, and securing herself a handy points buffer heading into the final round at Italy’s Pietramurata track in a week’s time.
“The goal coming in was to extend my lead in the championship, so it was nice to do that today. The first moto didn’t quite go to plan with the big crash while leading. I’m a little bit disappointed – it was a simple mistake on my behalf. You live and you learn, I suppose,” Duncan says of the crash which left her with a slight fracture and a large cut to her finger.
“Moto 2 was a different story, and I was able to get off to a good start and make some passes on the first lap. After making my way into the lead, I pulled a solid gap, then maintained it to win the overall and stretch the lead out to 16 points.”
Van De Ven sits third in the championship, a further 12 points behind second-placed Fontanesi.
Duncan enjoyed the new, Spanish dirt track and praised its layout and jumps.
“It got really technical, with a lot of ruts out there, which made for some good racing.”
She heads back to England tomorrow and will have about five days at her Kawasaki team base before flying back to Italy for next weekend’s final, which has been brought forward by a week.
“Not a whole lot goes on now. The most important thing is recovery and making sure I can get my body in the best spirit it can be to go chase the championship.”
As far as emotions go, Duncan’s keeping them firmly in check and staying level-headed.
“At the end of the day I haven’t won anything yet. That big prize and reward lies ahead in seven days’ time. Until then I need to continue doing my thing, putting in the work, and making sure I’m ready. At the same time, it’s exciting and I can’t wait to get back out there and get racing!” Duncan says.
Kawasaki New Zealand’s Managing Director Shane Verhoeven described the Spanish round as: “Yet another display of brilliance from Courtney, who takes another step closer to her third title and it was by no means an easy win. WMX has displayed some of the most bar-banging racing of any class this season and Courtney’s rivalry with six-time world champion Kiara Fontanesi has reached new heights.”
“I think all of her fans were on the edge of their seats witnessing her spectacular spill in race one. Once again, she bounced back to show the grit and determination Courtney’s become known for – to recover and claim the overall. The final round in Trentino is a track that Courtney has proven herself at in the past. It will be one to watch!” he wraps up.
WMX – Race 1 – Top 10 Classification: 1. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, Yamaha), 24:46.750; 2. Courtney Duncan (NZL, Kawasaki), +0:05.314; 3. Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, GASGAS), +0:05.783; 4. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, Yamaha), +0:25.970; 5. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), +0:28.397; 6. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:30.947; 7. Tahlia Jade O’Hare (AUS, Honda), +0:49.668; 8. Lynn Valk (NED, Husqvarna), +0:51.550; 9. Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), +0:51.936; 10. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), +1:11.836;
WMX – Race 2 – Top 10 Classification: 1. Courtney Duncan (NZL, Kawasaki), 25:12.532; 2. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, Yamaha), +0:19.304; 3. Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, GASGAS), +0:22.742; 4. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), +0:29.126; 5. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, Yamaha), +0:30.161; 6. Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), +0:37.192; 7. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, Kawasaki), +1:14.423; 8. Jamie Astudillo (USA, KTM), +1:21.817; 9. Tahlia Jade O’Hare (AUS, Honda), +1:25.664; 10. Mathea Seleboe (NOR, Yamaha), +1:50.685;
WMX – Overall Top 10 Classification: 1. Courtney Duncan (NZL, KAW), 47 points; 2. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, YAM), 47 p.; 3. Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, GAS), 40 p.; 4. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, YAM), 34 p.; 5. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), 29 p.; 6. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, KAW), 29 p.; 7. Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), 27 p.; 8. Tahlia Jade O’Hare (AUS, HON), 26 p.; 9. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), 26 p.; 10. Lynn Valk (NED, HUS), 19 p.;
WMX – Championship Top 10 Classification: 1. Courtney Duncan (NZL, KAW), 223 points; 2. Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, GAS), 207 p.; 3. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, YAM), 195 p.; 4. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), 170 p.; 5. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, YAM), 167 p.; 6. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, KAW), 153 p.; 7. Lynn Valk (NED, HUS), 140 p.; 8. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), 130 p.; 9. Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), 125 p.; 10. Tahlia Jade O’Hare (AUS, HON), 89 p.;
WMX – Manufacturers Classification: 1. Kawasaki, 223 points; 2. GASGAS, 207 p.; 3. Yamaha, 199 p.; 4. KTM, 182 p.; 5. Husqvarna, 140 p.; 6. Honda, 89 p.; 7. Suzuki, 39 p.; 8.
2021 Women’s Motocross World Championship calendar
1 Saturday, July 24 GP of Czech Republic, Loket
2 Saturday, July 31 GP of Flanders-Belgium, Lommel
3 Saturday, September 4 GP of Turkey, Afyonkarahisar
4 Tuesday, September 7 GP of Afyon, Afyonkarahisar
5 Saturday, October 16 GP of Spain, intu Xanadu-Arroyomolinos
6 Sunday, October 24 – GP of Trentino, Pietramurata
Words: Catherine Pattison