Starting next weekend, the high-profile Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team expands to five riders as it flexes its muscles ahead of the New Zealand Motocross Championships.
The big annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville is set for next weekend, January 28-29, and, as the first of the major events on the calendar for 2017, it's considered important for the team to do well.
The expectations are perhaps already high because the Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team's top MX1 rider, 2016 Australian MX1 champion Dean Ferris, won the main trophy on debut at Woodville last season, while Duncan stunned the testosterone-fuelled MX2 (250cc) class when she won that trophy ahead of fellow Kiwi internationals Josiah Natzke and Hamish Harwood.
Their team boss, Motueka's Josh Coppins, would like nothing better than to repeat that outstanding success.
Former motocross world championship Grand Prix racer Coppins is a hard task master and, after expressing disappointment about his riders' results at the Whakatane Summercross just after Christmas, he's keen to "put things back on track".
Ferris will again tackle the MX1 class at Woodville on his Yamaha YZ450F and he'll have Mangakino's former New Zealand MX2 (250cc) champion Kayne Lamont racing alongside him on another YZ450F.
Otago's women's world championship contender Courtney Duncan will race alongside Waitakere's former national 125cc champion Ethan Martens in the MX2 class at Woodville, the pair on identical Yamaha YZ250F bikes, and they'll be joined for the first time by fellow Kiwi international Dylan Walsh, the Christchurch man now back in New Zealand after a couple of seasons of racing with success in the United States.
With five riders representing the Altherm JCR team, it seems they have all the bases covered.
"Dylan said he not only wanted to race at Woodville, but also to stay on and race the national before he heads back to the US," said Coppins.
"So we have placed him on a support deal, partly because it only came together quite late. He's been training with us here for the past few weeks and showing some great speed.
"We just need to ensure our riders make the right decisions and manage their races properly. We need to be consistent and not make mistakes," said Coppins. "It's the old story: To finish first; first you must finish.
"The world championships are creeping up on us too and it's a bit of a juggling act trying to manage a racing team here in New Zealand as well as getting things sorted for Courtney in Europe.
"There are about eight weeks or so of the New Zealand season to deal with and then we have 30 weeks ahead of us with Courtney in Europe."
For Duncan, in particular, the motocross at Woodville next weekend and the first two rounds of the New Zealand Motocross Championships (in Timaru on February 5 and then Rotorua on February 19) will be crucial as she builds towards her opening bid for a world title, with round one of the Women's Motocross World championships in Indonesia on March 5.
The Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing team is supported by the Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing team, Altherm Window Systems, Yamaha, JCR, CRC, Ados, GYTR, Yamalube, Fox Racing, Hollands Collision Centre, Star Moving, Ward Demolition, Fulton Hogan, Pirelli, FMF, DID, NGK, Matrix, Renthal, Motomuck, [../3%20July-Sept%202016/www.workshopgraphics.co.nz]www.workshopgraphics.co.nz, Motoseat, Hammerhead, SKF, Vertex Pistons, Rtech Plastics, Etnies, Biketranz and Fulton Hogan.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com