Defending Tri Series super motard champion Toby Summers will need all his skills and luck to hold out the leading Wanganui contenders, Glenn Haden and Richard Dibben, who will mount new machines this season.
The Aucklander won last year's series on consistency, with the roomier Hampton Downs and Manfeild circuits suiting his modified Yamaha YZ450 dirt bike better than the River City duo's Hondas.
However, Haden, who finished second to Summers in last year's series, and Dibben (fourth) begin this season at Hampton Downs this weekend on new CRF450 Hondas.
Round two is at Manfeild the following weekend and the final round at the Cemetery Circuit in Wanganui on Boxing Day.
"All season last year we both had Toby in our sights," Haden said yesterday.
"In fact, Richie won the most races in the series last year, but crashed on the Cemetery Circuit in the final round.
"Toby's bike had about five or six more horsepower than ours and got away from us in the straights.
"The straight at Hampton Downs is like about 1km long, but we caught him up on the corners, so it will be a different story this year.
"Our bikes will be far more competitive, especially on the tighter home track on Boxing Day."
Dibben said he and Haden were totally focused on hunting down Summers during the entire series to bring the motard trophy home to Wanganui.
"Wanganui riders make up about a third of the motard series field of around 30 starters, although for some it's their first attempt. We have been practising at kart tracks around the North Island, including Taumarunui and the back track at Manfeild, and we're happy with the way the bikes are performing," he said.
"Toby is still on his old rocket, but our new machines will make a big difference this year.
"I'm hoping to do well again without crashing this year, but there's a couple of guys from Taupo and one from Tauranga who are pretty good - and then there's Glenn."