MotoX: Duncan's focus on world champs
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This year could belong to New Zealand's Courtney Duncan — and her boss is doing everything in his power to make this so.
The privilege of rank can be a double-edged sword. That authority allows the freedom to indulge oneself on occasion,
but it also includes the tyranny of having to take responsibility for the welfare of others. And Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team manager Josh Coppins has experienced both extremes.
He had a tough decision to make as a team manager, opting to withdraw MX2 (250cc) class rider Duncan from the remainder of the New Zealand Motocross Championships, so the second of four rounds took place at Rotorua without her at the weekend.
“She has been dealing with a few niggling injuries lately and so the decision was made last week that she should focus her attention on the world championships,” said Coppins.
Otago's Courtney Duncan (Altherm JCR Yamaha YZ250F), getting herself ready to take on the world. Picture/ Andy McGechan, Bikesport NZ.com
“She is now 100 per cent focused on the first round of that series (set to start in Indonesia on March 5).
“I'm not sure at this stage what other New Zealand events she might do, if any.”
There is no reason Coppins' other riders can't collect New Zealand titles this season. Fingers crossed, 21-year-old Duncan will rise up to claim the women's world title she was denied in her debut season in Europe last year.
At that time the new kid on the block, Duncan stamped her authority and won five of the 14 races of the world series, more than any other individual, even after she was able to start only nine of the races because of an injury she was not responsible for.
She crashed on a jump while leading at the German GP in May last year, the third round of the series, after clipping a photographer standing on the track.
The injury to her wrist forced her out of the following five races as she had surgery and needed time off to recover.
Duncan is looking forward to taking on French 2016 world champion Livia Lancelot (Kawasaki) and new Yamaha signing Kiara Fontanesi of Italy, among others, when the WMX kicks off in Indonesia in less than two weeks.
Coppins also enjoyed being back in action, the former Grand Prix star showing he wasn't the sort of man who would ask his riders to do anything he wouldn't himself.
On one of his team's YZ450F bikes, he lined up to tackle the popular annual Golden Nuggets Motocross, at Ikamatua — inland from Greymouth.
Motueka's Coppins is only an infrequent racer these days, but the 39-year-old former world No.2 is not one to shy away from a challenge and jumped at the opportunity to have a ride.
With five wins from five starts, as well as winning the all-capacities feature race, he was dominant and won the senior King of the Nuggets feature race by 30 seconds from Rangiora's Cody Murphy (Yamaha YZ250F).
“It was just a chance for me not to have to worry about managing my riders and it allowed me to have some fun,” says Coppins.
“There were about 350 riders there and it was a good chance for the team to turn up and support other riders.
“The last motocross event I rode was probably the Veterans' World Championships in Glen Helen (in the United States) in November.”
He was forced to finish runner-up in his premier 30-plus pro division at that major event after crashing while leading and dropping to second place in the final and deciding race of the weekend.