Duncan Back On Top Of The World

Otago's Courtney Duncan (Altherm JCR Yamaha YZ250F), on top of the world championship standings after two of six rounds

Three wins from four starts have propelled the Otago rider to the top of the Women's Motocross World Championship (WMX) standings and, despite only recently returning to the racetrack following injury, she again looks strong enough to push on and take the world title. With backing from the New Zealand-based Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team, she won both races at round two of the series at Agueda, in Portugal, at the weekend, enabling her overtake German rider Larissa Papenmeier and claim the world series lead.

The 22-year-old Duncan led from start to finish in race one, winning by 14 seconds from Dutch Yamaha rider Nancy Van De Ven on Saturday, but she had her work cut out when the track became muddy the following day. She trailed Suzuki rider Papenmeier for the first half of the 10-lap race on Sunday before making her move, passing the German and going on to win the race by 8.7 seconds. Third overall at the weekend was Van De Ven, followed by Italy's defending world champion Kara Fontanesi, also on Yamaha. The third of six rounds is set for Teutschenthal, in Germany, next month. The opening round of the WMX series was staged at the circuit of Pietramurata, in the Trentino region of Italy, the previous weekend and there Duncan managed sixth on the first of her two races – after she crashed, although she did recover from 25th position to finish sixth – before bouncing back to win the second outing. 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. After the German GP on May 20, the WMX series heads again to Italy, at Ottobiano on June 17, followed by Assen, in the Netherlands (September 16) and finally Italy once more, this time at Imola (on September 30).

Duncan and her Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing team is supported by Altherm Window Systems, JCR, Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Yamaha Motor Europe, CRC Industries, ADOS, Monster Energy, Liv Cycling, Fox Racing, Mazda NZ, Veraa Metaal, Yamalube, GYTR, bLUcRU, Akrapovic, Ward Demolition, Star Moving, Holland Collision Centre, www.workshopgraphics.co.nz, YMF, YMI, Pirelli, Twin Air, DID, Samco Sport, Renthal, NGK, Motomuck, Vertex, X-trig, Motoseat and SKF.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan