Papamoa's Cody Cooper is closing in fast on another New Zealand motocross crown.
The Honda racer extended his run in the MX1 (450cc) class by winning the Pukekohe round on Sunday and will take a 37-point advantage, effectively a race-and-a-half, into the final at Taupo on March 22.
On a well-prepared Harrisville clay track, Cooper raced to two wins on his Honda CRF 450 and was pipped by 1.7secs when Australian rival Kirk Gibbs (KTM) won the third moto.
A first race crash meant Gibbs wasn't any threat to Cooper for the overall honours.
"I wanted to win all three races but he [Gibbs] was riding fast and the track was quite hard to pass on. I could have risked a pass but it would have been a bit stupid with a big lead in the championship," Cooper said.
He now leads the MX1 class with 217 points from Scotsman Billy MacKenzie (Yamaha) on 180 points.
MacKenzie was third at Pukekohe with Taupo's Brad Groombridge (Suzuki) performing strongly again to finish runner-up and position himself 12 points behind MacKenzie as the series heads to his home track.
In the 125cc class, Te Puke's Logan Blackburn (Yamaha) returned to the podium after a second round crash at Tokoroa dented his title hopes.
Blackburn posted two seconds and third on Sunday and remains third in the championship standings.
Hamilton's Josiah Natzke (KTM) took a clean sweep at Pukekohe and holds a commanding 35-points lead over Atiamuri's Hadleigh Knight (KTM) with Blackburn 11 points back. Tauranga's Ryan Metz (Yamaha) continued his climb and is now fifth.
The MX2 (250cc) class sees Mangakino's Kayne Lamont (Husqvarna) enjoying an even stronger leadership position than Cooper and Natzke.
Lamont won all three races at Pukekohe and leads by 38 points from Aucklander Hamish Dobbyn (KTM). Australian Jay Wilson (Yamaha) is third and while Rotorua's John Phillips, who is Cooper's teammate in the Honda Shop squad, has moved up to fourth place.
In spite of feeling unwell in the lead-up to the weekend, Mt Maunganui's Rhys Carter (Suzuki) produced his best points haul of the series, taking fifth at Pukekohe and moving to seventh in the title chase.
NZ motocross nationals
(After round three of four):
MX1 (450cc): 1 Cody Cooper (Papamoa) Honda, 217pts; 2 Billy MacKenzie (Scotland) Yamaha, 180pts; 3 Brad Groombridge (Taupo) Suzuki, 168pts; 4 Kirk Gibbs (Australia) KTM, 157pts; 5 Michael Phillips (Rotorua) Honda, 125pts.
MX2 (250cc): 1 Kayne Lamont (Mangakino) Husqvarna, 216pts; 2 Hamish Dobbyn (Auckland) KTM, 178pts; 3 Jay Wilson (Australia) Yamaha, 164pts; 4 John Phillips (Rotorua) Honda, 152pts; 5 Scott Columb (Queenstown) Yamaha, 151pts.
125cc 2-stroke: 1 Josiah Natzke (Hamilton) KTM, 214pts; 2 Hadleigh Knight (Atiamuri) KTM, 179pts; 3 Logan Blackburn (Te Puke) Yamaha, 168pts; 4 Beau Yeandle (Morrinsville) Yamaha, 116pts; 5 Ryan Metz (Tauranga) Yamaha 114pts.