Kiwi motocross sensation Courtney Duncan is returning to the Women's Motocross World Championship, where she will be racing for experienced British Kawasaki squad Bike It Dixon Racing Team.
Duncan will race a KX250 alongside male teammates Darian Sanayei from the United States and Brazilian Gustavo Pessoa. Run by a revered name in motocross circles, Steve Dixon, the switch to DRT marks a fresh start for the talented Dunedin 23-year-old, as she embarks on her fourth tilt at bringing home the elusive world title.
"I'm super-excited about this opportunity with the Bike It DRT Kawasaki race team. It's a new team and a new bike to start out the new year. I feel like it's going to be a good year for me, and I believe DRT will put me in a good position to win the championship.
"A fresh start is what I needed, and I couldn't be more excited than to do that with Kawasaki. Kawasaki New Zealand have also come on board to support me at home, for which I am also very thankful," Duncan says.
She has been a major protagonist in the series since her debut three years ago, claiming an amazing seven GP victories and 14 heat wins from just 15 starts.
Dixon said it had been 10 years since the team was involved in the women's world championship.
"A friend mentioned to me that Courtney was looking for a competitive ride in this year's GPs. It took some thinking about, but Kawasaki were keen, especially since their previous champion Livia Lancelot has retired. I expect Courtney to bring Kawasaki the world title."
Duncan has been back on the bike for the past six weeks after an extensive rehabilitation programme to heal a foot ligament injury. It caused her to miss the final two rounds of the 2018 WMX, where she held a dominant 21-point advantage. Duncan had won five of the eight WMX races she contested in Europe last year.
She has had a string of bad fortune over her three WMX campaigns.
In 2017, she was winning the second-to-last race of the season when she swerved to avoid a cluster of five fallen riders blocking the track and crashed into a fence — recovering to finish sixth. The race jury initially ruled the results would be awarded on the placings from the lap before the track was blocked, when Duncan was in front. But this decision was then changed and the results at the end of the race were reinstated, meaning she did not have enough points to win the championship.
She won the season's last race by 46 seconds, finishing third in the WMX, three points off top spot.
In 2016, while leading her debut championship — after winning three of her first four races — she crashed into an errant photographer who was standing in the wrong place on a jump. She injured herself badly and missed two rounds and consequently the title.
Duncan flew out recently for her new base in England, where she is preparing to ride her Kawasaki KZ250F in the five-round WMX series.
Women's Motocross World Championship
Round 1: March 31, Valkenswaard, Netherlands
Round 2: May 19, Agueda, Portugal
Round 3: July 28, Loket,
Round 4: August 18, Imola, Italy
Round 5: September 8, Afyonkarahisar, Turkey