Just five points separate the top four competitors – with Altherm JCR Yamaha rider Duncan second in the standings and just two point behind leader Nancy Van de Ven – and so the title will go down to the wire at the French track of Villars-sous-Ecot on Saturday and Sunday. Home track advantage could help determine the outcome this weekend, as perhaps it did last weekend when Dutch rider van de Ven surged past Duncan and took over the top championship spot at the Dutch GP at Assen. This weekend in France it will perhaps be French defending world champion Livia Lancelot who will enjoy the most crowd support and, in third place overall and just one point behind Duncan, Lancelot will fancy her chances of retaining her crown. From the other side of the world, from Palmerston, near Dunedin, home advantage is never something that Kiwi girl Duncan has been able to count on in Europe. She'll jump out of the frying pan and into the fire this weekend – from the cauldron of the Dutch GP to the inferno of the French one, but Duncan has the strength, determination and the ability as well to overcome all of that. Destiny is in her own hands and with Motueka's former Grand Prix motocross star Josh Coppins to guide her, Duncan knows she has a very good chance of becoming world champion at only her second attempt. In her GP season debut last year, Duncan crashed out while leading the championship, an accident that was not of her making. She instead had to settle for a world ranking of No.5 after an errant photographer, foolishly standing out on the track, caused her to crash out of the German GP in May 2016.
Her injuries from that unfortunate incident meant she was sidelined for the rest of that weekend and for a further two of the rounds that followed. She won five of the 14 races in the seven-round WMX series last year – although only being able to start in nine of them – and that race win tally was greater than any other rider, including the woman eventually crowned world champion, French hero Lancelot. Duncan has won three of the 10 races held in the five rounds so far this year, a record equalled only by current series leader van de Ven, and Lancelot has just two race wins to her credit so far this season. This weekend's action in France is sure to be edge-of-the-seat stuff. "I want to get myself in a good position at the start of the race and ride my own race and what will be, will be," Duncan said. "I want to go out there and enjoy what I do best and won't be worrying about any of the other riders. I will be smart out there and only focus on my riding."
Duncan and her Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing team is supported by Altherm Window Systems, Yamaha, JCR, CRC, Ados, GYTR, Yamalube, bLU cRU, Fox Racing, Hollands Collision Centre, Star Moving, Ward Demolition, Pirelli, Akrapovic, DID, NGK, Renthal, Motomuck, www.workshopgraphics.co.nz, Motoseat, SKF, Vertex Pistons, Rtech Plastics, Etnies, Mazda NZ, Liv Cycling and Monster Energy.
SERIES STANDINGS: WMX Championship Top Ten:
- Nancy Van De Ven (NED, YAM), 193 points
- Courtney Duncan (NZL, YAM), 191 points
- Livia Lancelot (FRA, KAW), 190 points
- Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, YAM), 188 points
- Larissa Papenmeier (GER, SUZ), 160 points
- Amandine Verstappen (BEL, KTM), 151 points
- Nicky van Wordragen (NED, YAM), 119 points
- Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), 89 points
- Francesca Nocera (ITA, SUZ), 80 points
- Stephanie Laier (GER, KTM), 72 points
Words and photo by Andy McGechan