Motorsport: Courtney puts lads in their place

By Andy McGechan

Courtney Duncan is in top form in the United States. Photo / Supplied
Courtney Duncan is in top form in the United States. Photo / Supplied

New Zealand's Courtney Duncan is the talk of the United States motocross scene despite the Yamaha star wrapping up her US campaign early, opting not to venture out for her final race of the week-long competition at the Ponca City Junior Motocross Nationals in Oklahoma in July.

But the 15-year-old from Palmerston, Otago, had already done enough to write her name into the record books, turn quite a few heads, and encourage several factory teams to step forward with attractive offers.

Duncan's most comprehensive result was when she took her Backflips Yamaha YZ85 to back-to-back wins and easily wrap up the national title in the 65cc to 85cc girls' class.

On both occasions Duncan finished ahead of fellow Yamaha rider Kaitlyn Morrow, of Houston, Texas.

The huge annual competition, one of the biggest on the US calendar with more than 2200 participants, saw Duncan enhance her already glittering CV with a string of results that have made her "the most talked-about kid in the USA right now", says proud step-dad Noddy Turner.

"Courtney has been amazing all week. The temperature and humidity here have been incredible. It has been around 43C the whole time. You are sweating just sitting still."

The tousle-haired blonde also tackled the top boys in America, riders who will no doubt go on to become some of the sport's high-profile and highly paid superstars.

Although a year younger than some of her male rivals, Duncan finished third overall in the 85cc to 150cc stock class - her 3-2 results earning her the podium spot. And she finished the event ranked fourth overall in the 85cc to 150cc modified class after finishing 3-5 in her two outings. "She could have been on the podium there too but she crashed while running in third in the second race and had to settle for fifth in that race," Turner says. "But I don't care where she finishes really, so long as she doesn't get hurt."

Turner was her mechanic and support crew and also there to give Duncan the occasional reality check. "I don't really think she could have done any better than this. I certainly never expected her to be running top-three against the boys here. These are all factory riders and teams she is up against, some of them operating tricked-out $40,000 bikes. It's pretty unreal. We were just doing everything from under a small tent."

Duncan was due to race one more time in the open class, hoping to back up her runner-up finish from the first race, but she decided that discretion was the better part of valour and opted not to race. "I hurt myself a bit in one of my races yesterday and decided not to risk hurting myself further," says the Year 11 pupil from East Otago High School in Palmerston. That meant she slipped back to finish the event 23rd overall in the open class, but, as she points out, "I was happy that I had done all I needed to do here."

When Duncan wrapped up her first New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships title in Tokoroa in April, it was one of the sweetest moments of her career. That weekend she became the first female to win the New Zealand junior 13 to 16 years' 85cc title.

Now the whole world knows about Courtney Duncan.

- NZ Herald

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