Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper has regained the New Zealand MX1 Motocross title after a back-and-forth duel with Australian rival Kirk Gibbs.
Cooper (Honda) saved his best ride till the final race of the series at Taupō on Sunday to win back the title that Gibbs had denied him last season.
In a four-round, 12-race contest completely dominated by the two riders, Cooper won seven of the races to Gibbs' five wins and clinched the title by six points.
But it took an inspired ride in the final race after a first-corner delay to put the prized No 1 plate back on Cooper's Honda CRF 450F.
Cooper went into Sunday's final round with a three-point lead and doubled it to six points by winning the first Taupō race by 10s.
Gibbs (KTM) retaliated with a narrow win in race two that restored the separation to three points ahead of the final race. Gibbs' hopes rested on winning the final race which would have levelled the two riders with the championship tie-breaker being the final race finish order.
As the field raced through the sharp left-hand first turn at Taupō, Cooper had struggled to get off the line and was deep in the pack with Gibbs out in front.
''I was 11th at the first corner, ninth halfway through the first lap and fourth after lap one,'' Cooper says.
A sequence of quick laps powered Cooper into second and then past Gibbs with a winning ride that clinched the title.
''I think the bad start actually worked in my favour,'' said Cooper.
''Because I had to pass two riders at a time in some corners, I found some fast lines out wide that I wouldn't have used otherwise. So when I caught Gibbs it was easy to pass him.''
It's Cooper's seventh MX1 national title in a nine-year run.
''There been a bit of pressure this year but I've enjoyed it. It could have been a bit easier because there were a couple of races where something went wrong.''
Cooper will change codes for an outing at the upcoming Rotorua Crankworx mountain bike event before heading to the US race in the first three rounds of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross championship starting in May.
Final standings in MX1 saw Cooper on top with 285 points from Gibbs on 279. Mangakino's Kayne Lamont (Yamaha) was third on 233 points while Taupō's Cohen Chase (Kawasaki) gained his first podium result at Taupō and moved up to fourth overall on 186 points.
The Australian challenge in the MX2 class fell away at the final round and it was Taupo's Wyatt Chase (Honda) who led the way at his home track to take the round win over Takaka's Hamish Harwood (KTM).
Chase won twice at Taupō — the fifth different winner in 12 races during the competitive MX2 series but Harwood remained in control of the title fight and successfully defended the MX2 crown with 265 points. Chase moved up to second overall with his final round surge on 214 points ahead of Mangakino's Maximus Purvis (Yamaha) on 203.
Harwood also continued his unbeaten run to the 125cc 2-stroke title winning three more races at Taupō and achieving an unbeaten record in the series ahead of Ngatea's Benjamin Broad (KTM) and Rotorua's Joshua Bourke-Palmer (Yamaha).