The Kiwi girl had never previously raced at the legendary sand track in the north-eastern corner of Belgium which was even heavier and rougher than usual after midweek rain. Local riders from the home country and The Netherlands, who have been brought up racing in these unique conditions, traditionally dominate racing and this baptism of fire for the WMX regulars from the rest of the world was no exception. Realising that survival was the key to this round of the series Duncan was content to post eighth-fastest time during Qualifying but significantly managed to post similar lap times throughout the session as those of her rivals dipped in the energy-sapping conditions. Emerging eighth from the initial sort-out in race one she even lost a couple of positions early on through a small fall but confidently relied on her strength, physical fitness and resilience to make significant moves throughout the second half of the race. Maintaining a five-second span of lap times whilst even the lap times of the leaders slowed by eight seconds as track conditions became ever more brutal Duncan picked off the girls ahead of her with the final pass for an eventual sixth place two laps from the end. Significantly four of the five girls ahead of her were Dutch “sand hoppers“. Her championship points lead cut to just three points but with track knowledge from race one Courtney shot out of the gate in race two to grab the holeshot award and, upping her sand game, defied all of the locals for ten minutes until a momentary loss of traction finally lost her the lead. Remaining unruffled she remained third for a further five minutes but, with lapped riders adding to the difficulties of an ever rougher track, she was pushed back to fourth when she ran out of track as all of the leaders started to make mistakes. With the next chaser almost twenty seconds back she could have been forgiven if she had settled for a “safe” fourth, but the Kiwi girl is made of sterner stuff and, setting faster times than any of her rivals through the final laps, executed a storming outside pass to regain third and came up just short of second at the chequered flag. Her gritty commitment earnt the Kawasaki girl fifth on the day and she remains second in the points chase, just two points shy of the red plate, and can head confidently to the remaining rounds of the series on more favourable hardpack terrain.
Courtney Duncan: “It wasn’t easy out there but I think I can be proud of what we achieved today. Coming in we knew it was going to be tough; it was one of those days where we had to salvage as much as we could and you win championships on those days. I’m proud of the effort, particularly the way I was able to hang tough with the other girls at the front in race two. First moto I got a good jump off the start but I shut off too early into the corner; a small crash on lap two made the race tough for me but I still pushed to the end, salvaged what I could and got some important points. Another holeshot made the second race easier but I didn’t quite have it to win the race. Now we go home, regroup and come out swinging for Turkey. It’s one of my favourite tracks on the calendar so I’m confident headed there. It’s important we nail the training leading up to each event, continue to look for ways to be even better and give our best effort. “
Amandine Verstappen of 9MM Energy Drink BUD Racing Kawasaki qualified tenth but made a superb start to race top six throughout most of race one but lost two positions amongst lapped traffic in the final two laps. The Belgian made another great fourth-placed start in race two and, although she soon surrendered several places to the local sand experts, she came home ninth to complete the day ninth overall and remain a challenging seventh in the series points chase.
Amandine Verstappen: « I raced almost all of the first moto in sixth position, but a couple of laps before the end the marshall didn’t put out the blue flag and I lost two positions. The second moto was more difficult as I had used a lot of energy in the first one; physically it was tough today. Now we have several weeks before the next GP in Turkey; we went there two years ago and the track suits me."