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Motueka's Josh Coppins began his bid for this year's world motocross grand prix title with a solid pre-season outing in Italy at the weekend.
Coppins, who rides for Yamaha, finished fifth in the big Mantova Motocross and feels he is nearing the form necessary if he is to take the world title.
He said he was reaping the benefits of off-season conditioning work.
"It's been great being able to concentrate 100 per cent on my strength and fitness during the off-season and that has now allowed me to concentrate on racing rather than anything else," Coppins said.
He is now looking forward to the start of the grand prix season proper at Faenza, in Italy, on March 29.
Coppins, 31, said he expected this year's grand prix season to be his toughest yet and acknowledged it was probably his last chance to win the world title he has been chasing since 1995. "It will be tough," Coppins said. "Last year we had nine different [race] winners and, in 2009, there could be more.
"I need to work on my confidence and consistency and start the season healthy - then I don't see why I can't win.
"Last year I had to come from behind. By midway through the season I was there, so I can get confidence from this. But, in the last half, I struggled with starts."