The rain was a major character of the Grand Prix of Portugal: the typically showery month of April not holding anything back in the build-up and running of round five of 2018 MXGP at Agueda. A ray of brightness was provided by Yamaha’s Courtney Duncan. The New Zealander defied the rough and hard (dry-ish) bumps on Saturday for the first of two chequered flags and then doubled up in the slime of Sunday. Her feat turned the front of her bike the same colours as the oozy soil – crimson red – as FIM World Championship leader.
The 21 year old title contender is now into her third attempt at the crown and a bid for glory that involves relocation, sacrifice and thousands of miles from everything she knows and loves. Belgium-based Duncan is nothing if not determined and both her display of speed and mature caution in the mud was the bedrock of victory on the day and perhaps a renewed tilt at that sought after bigger prize.
WMX continues to thrill. Three of the last five editions of the series have involved last-round-last-race deciders with a season of effort, sweat and risk coming down to a few mere points. Duncan has to face five-times No.1 Kiara Fontanesi as well as Nancy Van der Ven and ‘veteran’ Larissa Papenmeier.
“The track was challenging in both motos and they were both very different: one was rutty and technical and the second was like a mud-fest…so it was good to get out of there with 25 points today,” No.151 said. “A 1-1 was more than I could have asked for. We’re happy and we’ll look to Germany.”
The ladies now have gap of almost a month until the Grand Prix of Germany brings them together for round three of six. Elsewhere in Portugal and Monster Energy Yamaha’s Romain Febvre just missed the MXGP podium with fourth place overall while Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Clement Desalle was frustrated with a first race ‘DNF’ after a technical problem with his racebike ruined another strong podium bid; the Belgian showing his strong current form by classifying third in the second outing. An exciting finale in the MX2 class saw Kemea Yamaha’s Ben Watson missing out on a maiden trophy by just 0.1 of a second at the line: the young Brit continues to impress in his first term on the YZ250F.