This season's annual Whakatane Summercross is going to be a clash of the titans like never before.
As well as attracting the cream of New Zealand motocross racers to the Awakaponga circuit near Matata each summer, the Honda-sponsored event will have a new twist this year.
Kiwi internationals Josh Coppins and Ben Townley, from Taupo, recently retired from fulltime racing but this year both men will have a huge influence on who wins at the event on December 28 and 29.
Coppins and Townley now manage high-profile race teams for Yamaha and Honda respectively and they will both have teams at Awakaponga.
Coppins will send Queenstown's national MX2 champion Scott Columb, Waitakere's Ethan Martens and Te Puke's Logan Blackburn into the fray.
Meanwhile, Townley will be represented by Mount Maunganui's national MX1 champion Cody Cooper and fellow Kiwi international John Phillips, of Rotorua.
"Here we have two elite riders who have taken off their helmet and boots and picked up a clipboard and stopwatch. This is a head-to-head battle on the sidelines," Bay of Plenty Motorcycle Club spokesman Tony Rees said.
"These men know what it takes to win and it will be great to see the battles between their team riders."
Other factory teams will also be arriving for Summercross with Auckland's Hamish Dobbyn, Atiamuri's Hadleigh Knight and Hamilton's Josiah Natzke representing the CMR Red Bull KTM Team.
Taupo's Brad Groombridge, Mount Maunganui's Rhys Carter and Dunedin's Campbell King will wave the flag for the Moto City Suzuki Team.
Kawasaki New Zealand will be represented by Taupo's Nick Saunders, Paraparaumu's Jesse Donnelly, Atiamuri's Dion Picard and BikesportNZ.com rider Scotty Canham, from Rotorua.
Also worth watching will be former world champion Darryll King, of Hamilton, and local heroes like Whakatane's Damon Rees, Blair Gibson, Rhys Robb, Shelby van Beek, Bryce Colbourn, Blake Cheesman, Keanu Viitakangas, Sam McPherson and William Milsom.
Honda hot-shots Peter Broxholme, from Tauranga, Rotorua's Michael Phillips, Cambridge's Damien King, Auckland's James Ainsworth and Masterton's Bjarne Frederiksen will also be showcasing their skills.
"This event will be the first big hit-out of the season to feature all the major teams," Rees said. "It is a great time of year for racing."
The Honda Whakatane Summercross is a two-day affair, with minis and juniors racing on Saturday and seniors, women and veterans racing Sunday. It is considered one of the biggest motocross events of the summer and leads up to the New Zealand MX Nationals held in February and March.