You would have hardly known New Zealand speedway great Larry Ross hadn't been on his solo bike in over a year on the opening night of the Burt Munro Challenge at Ascot Park Raceway.
The 58-year-old, who raced professionally in England between 1975 and 1986, and is a nine-time New Zealand champion, pulled his bike out of the garage for the first time since last year's Challenge and did not disappoint in the longtrack solos.
Ross won all five races held in his class to defend his New Zealand Championship from a year ago, and also claim the New Zealand Grand Prix title.
At last year's Challenge, Ross and Invercargill rider John Tuffley were difficult to separate, but it was a rough night of racing for Tuffley who battled clutch problems and was never able to fire.
Ross was unsure of how he would perform heading into his first race, but said it was one of those meets where everything went perfectly for him.
''In professional sport ... sometimes you wake up in the morning and everything goes your way. Today, was one of those days for me.
''No matter what I did, it worked well and it couldn't go wrong, and my opposition, what they did, it didn't work.
''He said a key emphasis heading into tonight was starting positively out of the gate, which is half the battle in speedway racing.
''With speedway, because it's such an intense sprint race, the start is critical.
I prepare myself not for the race, but for the start and I set the bike up to get out of the start.
''It was a triumphant return to Southland in the sidecars for Invercargill-born Josh Wells, who now resides in Western Australia.
Wells teamed up with swinger Lance Tulloch to win the New Zealand long track championship title, after reigning victorious in two of the three heats.
They were unable to add the Grand Prix title to their collection, however, after engine problems prevented them from lining up on the start line.
Southland duo Kevin McDonald and Karl Hosie were victorious in the sidecar Grand Prix, winning both races held.
In other classes, Christchurch's Andrew Aldridge was a cut above the competition, taking out both the New Zealand Championship and Grand Prix in the speedway solos (no gearbox).
Invercargill's Chris McDonald also performed strongly in the quads winning the New Zealand Championship and Grand Prix in a tight tussle with fellow Southlander Craig Robinson.
Oamaru's Chris Manson pipped former Southlander Jason Feaver for the New Zealand Championship title in the non-speedway solos.
Feaver did take away some silverware after beating Invercargill's Greg Baynes on a countback in the Grand Prix after they both won a race.
The Burt Munro Challenge continues tomorrow with the Bluff Hill Climb, beginning at 10am.
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