It was a Yamaha clean sweep at the latest round of the Women’s Motocross World Championships (WMX) in Italy overnight, but, most significantly for her many Kiwi fans, it is New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan who remains in the top spot for the series.
Otago’s Duncan took her Altherm JCR Yamaha YZ250F bike to twice finish runner-up at this fourth round of six in the world series at Ottobiano, in the Lombardia region of Italy, and she now enjoys a 21-point lead over her two main rivals, fellow Yamaha riders Kiara Fontanesi and Nancy van de Ven.
Dutch rider van de Ven won the Grand Prix, finishing third and then first in the two races, while Italian defending world champion Fontanesi posted a 1-3 score-card to share the weekend’s overall honours.
Duncan had started the weekend with a 15-point lead at the top of the standings, ahead of German rider Larissa Papenmeier, but she has now boosted that considerably, with Fontanesi and van de Ven now sharing second spot in the championship, and this despite Duncan twice being beaten to the chequered flag in Italy.
Papenmeier has slipped back to fourth overall in the championship chase after she twice finished fourth at the weekend.
“Italy was not my best weekend,” said Duncan afterwards.
“In the first moto I made a small mistake on the opening laps, which made me really have to work for it. I made my way back to second right behind the leader. It was frustrating because I felt I let that win slip away but we didn’t give up and limited the points damage, so from that side I’m happy,” she said.
Duncan has a solid buffer now as the championship heads towards the final two event – in The Netherlands on September 16 and then Italy again on September 30 – and that could be vital for the 22-year-old Kiwi who will possibly never enjoy the advantage of racing a WMX event on her home turf.
Maybe this season it will be third time lucky for the young woman from Palmerston.
Duncan finished third overall last year after a contentious jury decision denied her the title when the second race was stopped at the final round in France, while she was leading.
Duncan had also been leading the series during her WMX debut season in 2016, but was forced to the sideline with injury when she crashed into an errant photographer, who had been standing on the race track at the German GP.
Although at that stage the “new kid on the block”, Duncan stamped her authority and won five of the 14 races in 2016, more than any other individual that year, and this was even after her “run-in” with the photographer.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan