For the best part of two decades, a day in the Bay of Plenty dirt has been a regular part of the Christmas-New Year routine for international motocross racer Josh Coppins.
But following his recent retirement from racing, the annual BOP Motorcycle Club Honda Summercross near Matata this weekend marks the beginning of a new phase in Coppins' career as a race team manager.
Summercross 2012 is the first big event for recently established JCR Yamaha Racing and Motueka-based Coppins - a winner of 12 world championship grands prix and twice world championship runner-up - will have four riders in his care this weekend.
"When we get there and the truck is unloaded with the bikes all set up, it will be a proud moment," says Coppins. "I'm excited. It's the first big event for me running a team and I'm finding every day has new challenges."
Coppins, 35, has taken charge of Yamaha's official racing effort in New Zealand.
"The team is aligned with the Yamaha Australia team and I will have one of their riders for the New Zealand MX1 Nationals in February and March," says Coppins.
But he hasn't hung up his boots and helmet altogether.
"I still ride and I still enjoy it but I'm not missing the racing. Part of my role is being a test rider for Yamaha so I'm still riding and staying in shape."
For Summercross and the NZ Grand Prix at Woodville next month, British rider Alex Snow will ride the MX1 class for JCR Yamaha to provide international competition for Kiwi number one and two, Ben Townley (Tauranga) and Cody Cooper (Papamoa).
"I needed an MX1 rider for Whakatane and Woodville and I've worked with Alex before and coached him," says Coppins.
"He's 24 and he rode well in the British champs last year and also did some world championship grands prix.
"He was keen to come out here to race and train in summer. I'm not saying Alex will beat Ben or Cody but I'm sure he'll put in a competitive performance."
JCR Yamaha will also field Queenstown racer Scott Columb in the MX2 class and is working with teenage development riders Cameron Vaughan (Rotorua) and world-class female racer Courtney Duncan (Otago), who are racing this weekend in the Youth MX (15-21 years) category.
"Scott is coming off an eight-week break having raced full-on for the last 12 months. He needed some time off the bike after a very busy year and Whakatane will just be a shakedown for him," says Coppins.
The format for Honda Summercross 2012 sees mini, junior and women's racing on Saturday with the senior MX1 and MX2, Youth MX and Veterans racing on Sunday.
In the MX1 class, defending Summercross champ and MX1 number one Ben Townley (Honda) heads the entry list with Suzuki's Cody Cooper and Honda's Michael Phillips (Rotorua) the other likely top contenders.
Recently crowned world veterans champ and defending MX2 national champ, Darryll King (Yamaha) of Hamilton, heads a 56-rider MX2 (250cc) entry that also includes Columb, Suzuki's Rhys Carter (Papamoa), Honda's Peter Broxholme (Tauranga) and rising stars Cameron Dillon (Honda) and Kayne Lamont (KTM), both from Mangakino.
Summercross is raced at the Awakaponga MX track, at the Caverhill Rd- Braemar Rd corner, just off SH2 south of Matata.