Duncan Ready to Take on the World

Duncan Ready to Take on the World

If there's anyone outside of New Zealand who hasn't yet heard of Otago's Courtney Duncan, they're probably in for a shock in the coming weeks.

It's not that the 19-year-old motocross racer from remote Palmerston, near Dunedin, has not already created a few waves internationally – she certainly has – but a lot has been going on in the motocross world recently and perhaps people have short memories or don't look too far beyond the borders of Europe.

The Yamaha star surely did create waves when she finished sixth against the world's elite young men at the Junior World Motocross Championships when that annual event was staged in New Zealand in 2009, but she has not done a lot internationally for the past couple of seasons and even 12 months can be a lifetime in the motocross world.

The Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team rider's mentor and coach, Motueka's two-time 250cc world championship runner-up Josh Coppins, reckons she's got what it takes to again be among the world's elite and that's why he and Yamaha New Zealand are getting behind her Women's World Championship bid this year.

She dominated the women's class at the weekend's annual King of the Mountain motocross in Taranaki and also pushed her team-mate, former national MX2 (250cc) champion Kayne Lamont, right to the brink in that class on Sunday before settling for runner-up spot.

It was a 1-2 podium finish for the two Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team riders, Lamont posting a 2-1-1 score-line in the MX2 class and Duncan finishing 1-2-2.

It certainly signalled that she was approaching peak form and that her preparation was on track for the start of the Women's World Championships in Qatar on February 27-28.

"I had been planning to race at two GP events in Europe last year, but, unfortunately I injured myself (passing around a basketball during a gym session) and that put me out for six months.

"I've been working very closely with Josh (Coppins) and we've improved a lot of things. It's top secret stuff and I can't tell you what or how," she laughed.

"I don't know anything really about the women I'll be racing against in Qatar. I don't even know anything about Kiara Fontanesi (the 21-year-old Italian who won the women's world championships last season). I do know that she, and the others too (such as French rider Livia Lancelot and Dutchwoman Nancy Van De Ven, the world No.2 and No.3 respectively), will be extremely fast.

"But I figure they won't know much about me either. Some of the riders may remember racing against me in the United States in 2013, but that was a long time ago really.”

Duncan won the Women’s Triple Crown in the US at the AMA Pro Nationals round at Hangtown in 2013, before suffering concussion following a huge crash later in her US campaign that year.

With sensational wins and frustrating injuries alternating as bullet points on her career over the past two seasons, Duncan has struggled to find the spotlight, but now she's 100 percent healthy and strong and ready again to go full-throttle.

"I just need to not worry about the other competitors, just ride my own race and put myself in the best possible position to win."

The Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing team is supported by Altherm Window Systems, Yamaha, JCR, CRC, Ados, GYTR, Yamalube, Fox Racing, Hollands Collision Centre, Star Moving, Ward Demolition, Fulton Hogan, Pirelli, FMF, DID, NGK, Matrix, Renthal, Motomuck, Workshop Graphics, Motoseat, Hammerhead, SKF, Vertex Pistons, Rtech Plastics, Etnies, Biketranz and Fulton Hogan.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan,