The spectacular action of 4x4 trials returns to the Te Puke district at the weekend.
Bay of Plenty Four Wheel Drive Club will host the BF Goodrich National 4x4 Trial, round five of six in the 2020-21 championship, at 1204 Rangiuru Rd near Te Puke on Saturday.
Te Puke's Nathan Fogden and co-driver Mike Gibbons are in an almost identical position to the one they were in last time the club hosted a round of the championship in 2019 when he won the title.
The pair leads Class C in their Zook-Sport/BF Goodrich Tires C-class Cowper truck on 347 points, 10 ahead of Whakatāne's Shane Towers.
''When we had the event last time we won our class [overall] with a round to spare,'' says Nathan. ''And if we win at the weekend then no one would be able to beat us and we wouldn't necessarily have to compete in the final - but we would.''
This is Nathan's fifth year in the supermodified, four-cylinder C-class.
He started competing in the national series in the 2004-5 season in an A-class Suzuki, originally bought as a work vehicle for his contracting business.
He won the A-class title for production vehicles twice and then the E-class title for more modified vehicles in 2008-2009.
"I did six years in that class and Mike was with me for three of those, and then we got to that point where we'd been banging our little Suzuki Jeep around the sides of these hills for 10 years and said, let's go and get amongst it with the real top guys."
The truck he now campaigns was built over a couple of years.
"It's quite a bit of kit, and it was a lot of truck to get used to compared to what we'd been in.
"We can have four-wheel steer, any suspension we want, independent wheel brakes on each wheel, twin diff locks," said Fogden.
"It's a team effort - Mike has the four-wheel brakes and two diff locks to control, I've got a steering wheel and gears and throttle, although I can grab the wheel brakes as well if he's in trouble and can't do anything.
"He dictates how fast we go, and I dictate which direction we go," says Mike. "He's got the steering wheel but my brakes override his steering wheel - if he wants to go left and I want to go right, I win."
Timing is crucial.
"If he holds on to the brakes too long we end up to the point where we aren't going to get it back," says Nathan. "The challenge is for me to apply the power when he wants me to, when you put the power on it helps the truck turn - so it's that co-ordination."
Last season was doubly interrupted, with Nathan and Mike having to miss a round for personal reasons and the final round being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but of the four rounds he did enter, he won three.
Nathan says it's always good to have a round close to home.
''It's always good to put a show on for our local people and also try to hopefully raise as much money as we can for Waipuna Hospice and St John. It's nice to be doing something close to home and it's easy for friends and family to come and watch.
Pukehina Surf Rescue will be selling food and drinks on the day and providing some of the marshalls and in return will get a donation.
Nathan will have one more obstacle to overcome than the other drivers, having broken a bone in his arm at the last round in Manawatū on March 14 when the truck came off a bank about a third of the way through the day.
In the top, D-class (five-cylinder plus) Super Modified trucks, the dominant driers are twin brother Jarred and Scott Biggs - with Scott currently leading the field.
''Greg McDell, the defending champion, has been in amongst it this season and then Russell Luders from the Waikato, he's hovering around there as well.
''Jarred Biggs' truck is running about 900 horse power now and we're trying to compete because ultimately we want to mix it with these guys when we've only got 450 horse power.''
Horsepower isn't everything though as the Te Puke round will show.
''It's got some stuff where trucks can really display their power, but also a lot of it's going to be about precision, placing the truck exactly where it needs to be on the side of the hill to miss the pegs.''
BF Goodrich National 4x4 Trial
April 10, 9am
1204 Rangiuru Rd
Cost: Adults $10, Under-16s $5, family $25.