They say championships are determined by how well a competitor performs on his or her bad days and that may certainly turn out to be true for Queenstown's Scotty Columb and Rotorua's Cameron Vaughan.
Columb, the JCR Yamaha Racing Team's MX2 class rider, withstood the pain of a recent injury to finish an unaccustomed sixth overall at the third round of four in this season's NZ Motocross Championships at Pukekohe a fortnight ago - in a category where little separates the top eight or 10 riders - but his resolute performance was enough to retain his overall championship lead.
Although Columb's points advantage has been shaved slightly, he still heads Australian visitor Brock Winston (CMR Red Bull KTM 250SX) by a healthy 14 points with just one round remaining and that is at Taupo in just over a week (on March 31).
"It was a bad day for me at Pukekohe," Columb admitted. "But I only lost two points to Brock and I have some time now to get fully healed from my hand injury before Taupo.
"We reverted to the bike settings I know and am happy with and that made a difference. I felt pretty comfortable on the bike and I'm looking forward to Taupo. I've had wins there before, so it's all looking good to win the title."
Meanwhile, Rotorua's Cameron Vaughan (JCR Yamaha Racing YZ125) narrowly led the 125cc class as riders arrived at Pukekohe and, although he left the track at the end of the day with his lead intact, there were a few scares along the way.
Vaughan's closest rival for the national 125cc title - Te Puke's Logan Blackburn (Bayride BikesportNZ.com Yamaha YZ125) - was the day's big mover, winning both the day's early 125cc races.
This meant Blackburn had suddenly shot to the top of the championship standings for the first time this season and it sent ripples of concern through the JCR Yamaha Racing enclosure.
But Vaughan dug deep, striking back in race three, winning it in style, while it was Blackburn's turn to suffer a setback and he eventually settled for fifth.
This switch in fortunes promptly handed the championship lead straight back to Vaughan but it is still a very tight battle.
Just four points now separate these two young men as they head to Taupo for the final round and this class is one that will go down to the wire.
In the MX1 class, Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper (Moto City Suzuki RM-Z450) has a stranglehold on the points lead.
He is a whopping 31 points ahead of third JCR Yamaha Racing team rider Billy MacKenzie, the former Grand Prix motocross star from Scotland making his championship debut in New Zealand this season.
The championship wraps up for all three classes in Taupo.
The JCR Yamaha Racing team is supported by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Yamalube, GYTR, Josh Coppins Racing, Yamaha Motor Finance, Star Moving, Holland's Collision Centre, Fox, Alpinestars, Atlas, POD, Racetech Plastics, Renthal, DID, NGK, Pirelli, Motomuck, ilabb, Factory Effex, Boyesen, Pro Circuit and Matrix.By Andy McGechan Email Andy