Bay of Plenty's Cody Cooper is determined to reclaim the top spot and win his third New Zealand Grand Prix motocross title this season.
The Mount Maunganui rider is current national MX1 motocross champion and heads into the Grand Prix – regarded as the biggest stand-alone event on the Kiwi racing calendar – as firm favourite.
Cooper's won there twice before –first in 2007 and seven years later in 2014 – and he'd like nothing better than to win once more and become a rare three-time winner of the iconic event taking place at Woodville in the Manawatu on January 28-29.
But that's easier said than done. Cooper was denied that honour last year for a second consecutive season – deprived both times by Australian visitors.
He was stopped in 2015 by Australian Kirk Gibbs and in 2016 it was another Australian, New South Welshman Dean Ferris, who rose up to claim the main trophy on debut at Woodville.
Cooper lived up to his star billing when he again won the MX1 class at Woodville in 2016, but it was a case of him winning the battles but losing the war, with Ferris leading from start to finish in the gruelling Invitation Feature Race.
Cooper won the MX1 class last year with a 1-2-2 score-card, finishing the day four points ahead of Ferris.
Cooper will again have some huge heavy-hitters lining up against him this year. Gibbs will not be back this year, but Ferris will again be crossing the Tasman and, with his recent Australian MX1 championship win, he should be expected to feature.
Kiwi internationals such as fellow Mount rider Rhys Carter and Rotorua's John Phillipsalso have good reason to fancy their chances.
Racing over the two days at Woodville caters for minis, juniors, women, veterans and seniors, with the novelty river race on Sunday always a crowd-pleaser.
The 2016 New Zealand Grand Prix motocross takes place at Woodville, Manawatu, on Saturday and Sunday, January 28-29. For more information visit: www.bikesportnz.com