New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan has made it a three-peat, winning her third consecutive FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship at the MXGP of Trentino.
The breath-taking Italian venue witnessed a truly deserving winner, as Bike it MTX Kawasaki’s Duncan overcame a hefty crash last weekend and a season-long battle with her rivals to win by a resounding 31 points.
Hitting the dirt in the first race at the penultimate round last weekend which fractured her finger as well as a nasty cut, did not hamper the 25-year-old in her final charge to victory.
Demonstrating the racecraft that comes with six years competing on the world circuit, Duncan rode calculatingly for third in the opening race. As carnage unfolded around her and her main competitor Italian Kiara Fontanesi went down after a collision with another rider, the Kiwi superstar rode through the finish flag with enough points to claim her third WMX winner’s gold plate.
“It comes down to how much it means to you, and how much is on the line and how much you want to win it. I was definitely feeling a little anxious but as soon as I got to the line, the helmet went on and I felt pretty controlled out there,” Duncan explained. “I was able to finish third which was good enough to win the championship in the first one, which was pretty crazy. I wasn’t expecting that.”
“This year’s been really tough. We’ve had ups and downs. Along the way, it hasn’t been a smooth run. I’ve made the best out of every situation and got as many points as possible,” Duncan continued.
In the opening race, Germany’s Larissa Papenmeier grabbed the holeshot with Fontanesi and Duncan a little further behind on the opening lap. Bad luck struck Fontanesi not long after as she went down hard.
Papenmeier then led Belgian Amandine Verstappen, Dutch rider Nancy Van De Ven and Duncan. The Kiwi caught onto Verstappen’s back wheel and passed her for third position on lap four. Meanwhile, Van De Ven tried several times to get within striking distance of Papenmeier but could not make it happen as the German won the race. Van De Ven finished second, while Duncan crossed the line third as the 2021 WMX Champion.
In race two, Papenmeier took the holeshot again, as she led out Duncan and Fontanesi. Moments later the crowd witnessed a repeat of race one’s mishap, as Fontanesi went down again and faded to the back of the field.
Papenmeier then led Duncan, Dutchwoman Lynn Valk and Denmark’s Sara Andersen, but by the second lap, the freshly-crowned three-time world champ was able to get around the German.
Duncan then stretched the lead out to 4.391 seconds over Papenmeier who continued ahead of Valk and Van De Ven. The Kiwi had full control of the race until the chequered flag and bought her 2021 season race win tally to five.
With a race win and a second, Papenmeier won the final round of the series, with Duncan second on the podium, while Van De Ven was third.
In terms of the championship, Van De Ven finished the 2021 season with the silver medal ahead of Fontanesi who had to settle for bronze.
Duncan was understandably thrilled and emotional in her post-race interview.
“Three times in a row with the same team, the same brand, it’s amazing. Words don’t describe it. I’m stoked on this weekend. Going 3-1 and winning the championship in the first race. Being able to clinch it with a race to go feels really great. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me this year. My team, everyone back home for getting up in the early hours to watch me race.”
She was out enjoying dinner and celebrating winning their third world title together with her team.
“I got to share the victory with my team and Kawasaki and a couple of friends I have over here. It’s been awesome how there’s not so much Covid over here, so we had the whole team and fans watching this weekend.
Kawasaki New Zealand’s Managing Director Shane Verhoeven says: “We’re incredibly proud of how Courtney rode and her whole season really. The level in WMX has stepped up this year and it wasn’t easy but with a level head Courtney has achieved three in a row. Her experience is starting to show and she’s asserted her dominance with consistency this season. A huge congratulations from the team at Kawasaki New Zealand.”
Duncan now surpasses fellow New Zealand world champion Katherine Oberlin-Brown (nee Prumm) as the country’s most successful female motocross rider. Prumm won the FIM Women’s Motocross World Cup, which was the forerunner to the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship, in 2006 and 2007. The following year injury hampered Prumm’s title tilt, before a crash in training ended her motocross career in 2009.
The only blip on her radar is that Duncan has been unable to secure an MIQ spot to return to New Zealand now that her European race season is finished.
“Hopefully I can get one in the coming weeks. That would be ideal to be back with my friends and family for Christmas. Obviously, I have a lot of support back home that it’s not possible to race without, so it would be cool to get back and celebrate with those guys as well,” Duncan concluded.
WMX – Race 1 – Top 10 Classification:
1 Larissa Papenmeier (GER, Yamaha), 24:30.310
2 Nancy Van De Ven (NED, Yamaha), +0:02.596
3 Courtney Duncan (NZL, Kawasaki), +0:03.889
4 Amandine Verstappen (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:13.690
5 Lynn Valk (NED, Husqvarna), +0:16.957
6 Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), +0:20.726
7 Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), +0:27.670
8 Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), +0:29.202
9 Tahlia Jade O’Hare (AUS, Honda), +0:51.209
10 Malou Jakobsen (DEN, KTM), +0:59.109
WMX – Race 2 – Top 10 Classification:
1 Courtney Duncan (NZL, Kawasaki), 24:51.718
2 Larissa Papenmeier (GER, Yamaha), +0:08.063
3 Nancy Van De Ven (NED, Yamaha), +0:13.235
4 Lynn Valk (NED, Husqvarna), +0:14.133
5 Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), +0:14.716
6 Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), +0:30.848
7 Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, GASGAS), +0:38.501
8 Amandine Verstappen (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:39.459
9 Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), +0:40.836
10 Tahlia Jade O’Hare (AUS, Honda), +0:54.674
WMX – Overall Top 10 Classification:
1 Larissa Papenmeier (GER, YAM), 47 Points
2 Courtney Duncan (NZL, KAW), 45 Points
3 Nancy Van De Ven (NED, YAM), 42 Points
4 Lynn Valk (NED, HUS), 34 Points
5 Amandine Verstappen (BEL, KAW), 31 Points
6 Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), 29 Points
7 Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), 29 Points
8 Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), 27 Points
9 Tahlia Jade O’Hare (AUS, HON), 23 Points
10 Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, GAS), 20 Points
WMX – Championship Top 10 Classification:
1 Courtney Duncan (NZL, KAW), 268 Points
2 Nancy Van De Ven (NED, YAM), 237 Points
3 Kiara Fontanesi (ITA, GAS), 227 Points
4 Larissa Papenmeier (GER, YAM), 214 Points
5 Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), 197 Points
6 Amandine Verstappen (BEL, KAW), 184 Points
7 Lynn Valk (NED, HUS), 174 Points
8 Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), 159 Points
9 Daniela Guillen (ESP, KTM), 154 Points
10 Tahlia Jade O’Hare (AUS, HON), 112 Points