Going 2-1 for the overall and taking the red plate back. Can’t go too much better than that, is how Kiwi motocross star Courtney Duncan sums up her successful Saturday of racing in the MXGP of Turkey.

Courtney Duncan crosses the finish line to win the Turkish MXGP round. PHOTO CREDIT: MXGP

“Going 2-1 for the overall and taking the red plate back. Can’t go too much better than that,” is how Kiwi motocross star Courtney Duncan sums up her successful Saturday of racing in the MXGP of Turkey.

The bounce back was all part of the defending FIM Women’s Motocross World Champion’s plan, and she now heads Italian rider Kiara Fontanesi by a healthy 15 points, with previous round winner Dutchwoman Shana van der Vlist dropping back to third overall.

The racing up front was as fierce as the temperatures, which rose to around 30degC at the Afyonkarahisar circuit, with Bike IT MTX Kawasaki’s Duncan locked in tussles with Fontanesi for the majority of the two races.

“I had some good battles with Kiara. She got me in the first one when I made a slight mistake and went off the track. I lost about 12 seconds, so I gave up too much time there but salvaged second,” Duncan says of the opening moto.

Germany’s Larissa Papenmeier had grabbed the holeshot earlier in the race but faded which allowed Duncan, Fontanesi and Belgium’s Armandine Verstappen through.

With Duncan in the lead, Fontanesi was looking to work away at the 5.517 second gap between her and the race leader, while Dutch rider Nancy Van De Ven pushed to pass Papenmeier.

Fontanesi then set the fastest lap of the race as she closed in on the Kawasaki rider while Van De Ven was finally able to take fourth from Papenmeier.

A couple of laps later, Fontanesi was on Duncan’s rear tyre. A small mistake presented Fontanesi with the perfect opportunity to get her GasGas machine out in front as she took the lead on lap eight. Duncan was looking to fight back but went off track, losing those 12 seconds as a result.

Fontanesi won the race with Duncan second and Verstappen holding onto third.

In the second race the two multi-time champions battled it out again.

“I followed Kiara for the whole race. I felt like I had a bit more speed, but it was just difficult to make passes as the rack was quite one-lined,” Duncan says.

Italy’s Elisa Galvagno had grabbed the holeshot from Van De Ven, Duncan, Papenmeier and Fontanesi.

Van De Ven then took the lead with Fontanesi getting around Duncan for second. By the end of the opening lap there was a lead change as Fontanesi was able to get good drive and hustle past the Dutchwoman.

Duncan passed Van De Ven for second place and after dicing with her for a few laps put her head down to close in on Fontanesi. She got the gap down to 0.884 seconds and then it was game on. As the Kiwi continued to push, she made a mistake which allowed Fontanesi to run away. This reprieve didn’t last long as Duncan clocked in some very fast laps on her Kawasaki KX250 to end up breathing down the Italian’s neck again.

“I rode patient and stayed composed out there. Then I saw the one lap card come up and knew if I wanted to have a go, I had to do it now. I left it until the second to last corner and gave it everything,” Duncan says, of executing her daring and determined passing move on Fontanesi.

“I was very stoked to get that win in the second race, extend my points lead and get that red plate,” Duncan says.

Kawasaki New Zealand’s Managing Director Shane Verhoeven stayed up late to watch Duncan racing on MXGP-TV.

“Another great performance by Courtney yesterday in Afyonkarahisar. In a theme that we’ve become accustomed to, she had to dig deep for the moto 2 win. The last-corner pass for the overall was spectacular and I’m sure that will make the highlight reel for years to come! The team at Kawasaki wishes her all the best for the second round of the Turkey double header in two days time,” he says.

Despite the hot conditions, Duncan felt strong, and her fitness was solid.

“I really enjoyed the track and I’ve been here previously obviously. It has a good layout, fun jumps and good ruts out there,” she says of the 1725-metre hard pack circuit, where she won her first world championship in 2019.

Duncan gets to do it all again on Tuesday as the close-together rounds mean she races another two motos in the MXGP of Afron. Rest and recovery are paramount, and Duncan’s plan was simple. Sleep, followed by a massage tomorrow and an easy cycle. She will eat well, hydrate a lot and chill out.

Her mind will be 100 percent focused on hitting repeat in two days’ time.

WMX – Race 1 – Top 10 Classification: 1. Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, GASGAS), 25:15.247; 2. Courtney Duncan (NZL, Kawasaki), +0:05.922; 3. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:23.598; 4. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, Yamaha), +0:24.160; 5. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, Yamaha), +0:24.938; 6. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), +0:44.661; 7. Elisa Galvagno (ITA, Yamaha), +0:50.273; 8. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), +0:51.266; 9. Lynn Valk (NED, Husqvarna), +0:57.145; 10. Tahlia Jade O’Hare (AUS, Honda), +1:15.799;

WMX – Race 2 – Top 10 Classification: 1. Courtney Duncan (NZL, Kawasaki), 25:06.664; 2. Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, GASGAS), +0:00.342; 3. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, Yamaha), +0:34.376; 4. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, Yamaha), +0:38.067; 5. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:47.858; 6. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), +1:08.572; 7. Lynn Valk (NED, Husqvarna), +1:13.256; 8. Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), +1:16.168; 9. Elisa Galvagno (ITA, Yamaha), +1:18.573; 10. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), +1:19.704;

WMX – Top 10 Overall Classification: 1. Courtney Duncan (NZL, KAW), 47 points; 2. Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, GAS), 47 p.; 3. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, YAM), 38 p.; 4. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, KAW), 36 p.; 5. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, YAM), 34 p.; 6. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), 28 p.; 7. Lynn Valk (NED, HUS), 26 p.; 8. Elisa Galvagno (ITA, YAM), 26 p.; 9. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), 26 p.; 10. Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), 22 p.;

WMX – Championship Top 10 Classification: 1. Courtney Duncan (NZL, KAW), 132 points; 2. Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, GAS), 117 p.; 3. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), 113 p.; 4. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, YAM), 110 p.; 5. Lynn Valk (NED, HUS), 98 p.; 6. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, YAM), 95 p.; 7. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, KAW), 94 p.; 8. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), 72 p.; 9. Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), 72 p.; 10. Elisa Galvagno (ITA, YAM), 51 p.;

WMX – Manufacturers Classification: 1. Kawasaki, 132 points; 2. GASGAS, 117 p.; 3. KTM, 117 p.; 4. Yamaha, 112 p.; 5. Husqvarna, 98 p.; 6. Honda, 43 p.; 7. Suzuki, 31 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              Saturday, October 30 – GP of Trentino, Pietramurata

Words: Catherine Pattison