Complacency is not a feeling Courtney Duncan is familiar with, and the fire still burns bright for the three-time consecutive World Women’s Motocross (WMX) Champion to add a fourth title in 2022.
Born in Palmerston and based in Dunedin over her off-season, Duncan is constantly searching for the extra percentage that will give her the edge over her hard-charging rivals. Over the past few months, she has been working closely with High-Performance Sport NZ.
“It’s been cool to have opportunities to train with some different athletes and work with the crew there. They’ve helped us to look for ways to be better – especially off the bike. The high-performance team has been monitoring the way we are tracking and looking for small improvements here and there. As we get better, those improvements are just small percentages, but they all count and overall I’m just continually trying to be better,” the 25-year-old said.
She recently re-signed with Kawasaki Europe and New Zealand for a further two years, continuing the stunning streak of success that began in 2019 when she won the first of her three world championships with the green team.
Racing for the English Kawasaki outfit Bike It Dixon Racing Team (DRT), Duncan says the freshly-inked deal makes for some “exciting times ahead.”
“It’s always nice to have the reassurance of a two-year contract. We know what to expect and obviously, we’ve had a lot of success there. We’ve been to the top three times before with the same team and the same brand and hopefully, we can carry on that success.”
Duncan’s continuity extends to the DRT mechanic that she’s been working with for the past two years and Jordy Vaughan will once again oversee the fine-tuning of her 2022 KX250.
“I’ve been working with Jordy for the past few seasons and he has been part of the team since the beginning. A mechanic is vital to our performance and we need to have a good relationship there. We’ve worked well together in the past and I’m happy he’s staying on board.”
Duncan, who is a 2022 Halberg Awards nominee for sportswoman of the year, achieved a resounding 31-point championship victory at the final 2021 WMX round at Italy’s Pietramurata venue. The desire to hold this year’s winner’s trophy aloft is just as strong, she says.
“It’s another year with another new start and another opportunity to chase another championship. Trying to get the four-peat is obviously the goal. At the same time, my thoughts aren’t purely on that. It’s in the back of my mind but I’m just doing the day-to-day processes, ticking off all the boxes and putting in the prep. It’s another big challenge this year but I’m always up for a challenge!”
Duncan plans to travel home to New Zealand between the six WMX rounds – which are spread out from the season-opener on March 5 in Italy, and encompass Portugal, Sardinia, Spain and France before the final Turkey-based round on September 3. While the new self-isolation rules come into play next month, after the uncertainty surrounding returning to New Zealand following her third WMX championship win in October, due to the MIQ lottery system, she is not booking any return airfares yet.
“I’m not looking too far afield and am just knuckling down. This first GP is where the focus lies and getting off to a good start to the season.”
With the 2022 New Zealand Motocross Championship cancelled due to Covid-19, Duncan lost the chance to get some race time in before she returns to Europe. Fortunately, she has a good crew of local riders around her to ensure she doesn’t slip off the pace.
“I’ve been out riding with my mates and we’re always pushing each other and having fun.”
There’s nothing like the first gate drop of the season and Duncan is pumped for it.
“It will be good to get stuck in and get into that first one. There’s always a little bit of extra nerves and excitement before it. There’s been a few months since we’ve been behind the line on the world stage. I’m sure once we get into the mode, everything will be sweet.”
She thanked everyone involved in her campaign for their support and vowed to fly the New Zealand flag high and do her best to put the Kawasaki brand on top again.
Kawasaki New Zealand’s Managing Director Shane Verhoeven says: “With no national championship in New Zealand this season, the anticipation to watch Courtney back in action is huge. I wish her all the best and trust her off-season training and experience will result in a positive outcome.”
“This will be Courtney’s second year on the new generation KX250 so her team already has a strong base knowledge of the machine and will be better equipped to make her comfortable.”
Duncan will fly to Europe as soon as her visa is processed and will start her 2022 campaign on Saturday 5 March at the MXGP of Lombardia, in Mantova, Italy.
2022 FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship Calendar
Round 1: Saturday 5 March, MXGP of Lombardia, Mantova, Italy.
Round 2: Saturday 2 April, MXGP of Portugal, Agueda.
Round 3: Saturday 14 May, MXGP of Sardegna, Riola Sardo, Sardinia.
Round 4: Saturday 28 May, MXGP of Spain, intu Xanadú.
Round 5: Saturday 20 August, MXGP of Charente Maritime, St Jean d’Angely, France.
Round 6: Saturday 3 September, MXGP of Turkey, Afyonkarahisar.