The Bay of Plenty's big Honda Summercross event on Saturday sees New Zealand motocross champion Cody Cooper stepping up his preparations for a full throttle 2018 racing effort.

The Mt Maunganui racer says the Awakaponga event begins a campaign that sees him race the four-round NZ champs through February and March before he plans to head to the United States to race in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Nationals.

With almost a full year of racing ahead Cooper, 34, has recently taken a brief break from his intense training schedule.

"I've not been riding too much lately. I did some races in November and since then I've been taking it easy with just a bit of fun riding.

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"I'm leaving some of my training till a bit later because it's going to be a big year.

"Summercross is the first big race and then we've got King of the Mountain at New Plymouth and the Grand Prix at Woodville."

After that it's straight into the four-round NZ Championship where Cooper again expects to face some top level Australian opposition.

Although retaining the number one plate on his Honda for a sixth consecutive year is a big priority, Cooper's other goal for 2018 is a full-time return to the US Motocross Championship.

"Last year I raced at the first two rounds in California. This year I'm going to carry on," says Cooper.

"It's something I really want to do and I want to do it while I still can. At the moment the plans are looking good.

"I like racing in America a lot. They have great tracks and it's fun travelling around. I'll be doing it for fun but doing it professionally as well."

The 12-round AMA National starts in Sacramento, California on May 19 and runs till August 25 with the final round in Indiana.

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Cooper has two full seasons of US racing experience including a fifth-place finish in the 2008 nationals as a Suzuki privateer and ninth the following season as a factory Yamaha rider.

This time he'll be on Honda machinery and hopes to build on lessons learned on his most recent visit earlier this year.

"We tried to run our New Zealand suspension set-up last time. That works on the slippery tracks here but the tracks in America are grippier and the jumps are bigger so it bottomed out."

Among the other leading early entries in the premier MX1 (450cc) class for Honda Summercross are Mt Maunganui's Rhys Carter (Kawasaki), Mangakino's Kayne Lamont (Yamaha), Taupo's Brad Groombridge (Suzuki) and Reporoa's Hadleigh Knight (KTM) while Rotorua racer John Phillips (Honda) will return to top level racing.

In the MX2 (250cc) class Australian Mason Semmens (KTM) is expected to challenge the leading Kiwi riders.

Honda Summercross 2017 runs Friday, December 29 and Saturday, December 30 at the BOP Motorcycle Club's Awakaponga track near Matata. On Friday it's the Mini MX and Junior MX classes in action while the senior racing with MX1, MX2, Vets, Women's and Youth MX (15-21 years) classes all race on Saturday.