The Bay of Plenty will be at the forefront of New Zealand's challenge at the "Olympic Games of Motocross", the annual Motocross of Nations teams event in October.
The FIM Monster Energy MX of Nations will be raced in Buchanan, Michigan on October 6-7. Multi-time national champion Cody Cooper (Mt Maunganui) will be teamed with fellow Mount Maunganui rider Rhys Carter and Christchurch's Dylan Walsh, with Hamish Harwood (Takaka) named as reserve.
Billed as the "Olympic Games of Motocross", the event will see about 40 nations in competition. New Zealand has a strong record, having taken third on three occasions in 1998, 2001 and 2006, and eighth place in 2015.
Cooper has been a mainstay of the Kiwi team in recent years and Carter rode at the 2013 event in France. He was also selected last year but missed the event due to injury.
"Racing at the Motocross of Nations is a career highlight, right up there with winning a championship,'' Carter says.
"It's a huge event with a fantastic atmosphere.
"There's nothing like representing New Zealand with the Silver Fern on your jersey and helmet and getting to race against the best riders in the world.
"I think we've got a strong team with Coops and Dylan, who is a fast, young rider ready to rise to the occasion.''
Carter says he is looking forward to racing with Cooper again. The pair are long-time rivals, friends and training partners.
"We've gone without riding together,'' Carter says.
"It will be interesting to see how we compare. I feel I have gotten stronger and faster so it will be close between us."
Carter is racing for Kawasaki in the Australian MX Nationals and delivered a strong performance at the recent round seven and eight double-header at Raymond Terrace, NSW.
After a pair of fifth places on Saturday, Carter followed up with a seventh and a season-best fourth place in the Sunday races. The strong points haul moved him up to sixth in the championship standings.
"Results-wise it was almost my best round but I missed the top-five by one point for the weekend. It was close racing and I was riding with more intensity and my confidence is growing. Overall it was a really positive weekend."
Husqvarna rider Walsh is competing in Europe and is fifth in the 250cc European Motocross Championship. Reserve rider Harwood is the reigning New Zealand MX2 champ and third in the Australian MX2 Championship.
Carter's next race is the penultimate Australian series round at Queensland's Gladstone track on August 5. Cooper is in action again this weekend at round nine of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Nationals in Washougal, Washington.
The Honda racer had a 15th and a 24th place at last weekend's round at Spring Creek, Minnesota. He's now 11th in the MX1 championship standings with three rounds remaining.
The New Zealand team will be managed by former 500cc world champion Shayne King (New Plymouth) and Taupo Motorcycle Club president Bevan Weal.