Motueka's Josh Coppins may have been away from the motocross world championship scene for almost two seasons but it seems he's forgotten nothing and his fitness and speed was still at world-class level when he made a wildcard appearance in Italy last weekend.
His appearance at the Italian GP at Faenza was his first for this season - his first since retiring from the GP scene at the end of 2010 - and he was thrilled to be there to wave the flag for Yamaha in the MX1 class.
He qualified 10th fastest and then started fourth in the first moto, although he started losing the rhythm and he could finish only in ninth spot at the end of the gruelling 40-minute race.
In the second race, the Kiwi hero was 13th, which gave him the overall 12th place in his comeback to the FIM motocross world championship after having obtained the Australian open class crown just a few weeks earlier.
Even with just the one GP under his wheels for 2012, Coppins slots in at 32nd in the championship standings, registering ahead of many riders who have raced at each one of the 15 GPs held this season.
Coppins won seven GPs for Yamaha between 2007 and 2009. He came agonisingly close to winning the MX1 world crown in 2007, until injury ruined his campaign, and this latest stint in Europe was granted to him by the appreciative Yamaha company as a way of saying thanks.
"Things turned out pretty much how I expected,” Coppins said. "I had a good start in the first race and my rhythm wasn't great but I rode OK and I was happy with the top 10.
"There were no expectations. I just wanted to go out and show there is still gas in the tank and give a good account of myself and the team. However, I did my best and I think I was respectable. I believe Germany will be better."
Coppins now prepares for the final GP race of his career, at the German GP at Teutschenthal next weekend.
Following that he will captain Team New Zealand at the Motocross of Nations at Lommel in Belgium on September 23.
"After winning in Australia it was great to have the opportunity to properly close the book by coming back to one of the most professional teams I've worked with in Grand Prix racing," said Coppins, who won the 2008 GP at Teutschenthal with a convincing double moto triumph.
"It will be a nice way to finish a long career."
- © Fairfax NZ News