Motorsport: Holmes storms through

This season's New Zealand Superbike Championships are turning into a battle of attrition.

But, as one rider fell, at least two more stepped forward to take his place at the second round of five in the series at Levels Raceway, on the outskirts of Timaru.

Two riders shared the lead in the 600cc Supersport class after the opening round a week earlier at Ruapuna, in Christchurch, and they were Canterbury's John Ross and Auckland's Jaden Hassan, with another Christchurch rider, Jake Lewis, a distant 16 points behind in third spot overall.

But all of that was overturned at Levels at the weekend.

Hassan (Homebuyers Reports Yamaha R6) crashed his bike during qualifying, plunging his title challenge into serious doubt.

"I felt good on the bike and went faster and faster, until I was sitting on pole position by half a second," said the 18-year-old Hassan. "I came in to make a change to the front end, but, on my first flying lap back out, as I tipped in to turn one, the rear came round and high-sided me big time.

"I landed heavily on basically my whole body, hurting both my wrists."

In considerable pain, Hassan managed an unaccustomed 12th in the first of two 15-lap 600 Supersport races, but withdrew before the start of the second race.

But while one Yamaha rider was down, another was on the way up.

Katikati's Rhys Holmes (Tuhoe Racing Yamaha R6) won the day in the fiercely fought 600 Supersport class.

He took his Mount Motorcycles machine to finish runner-up in the wet first race and then gratefully accepted the win in the second outing when two riders ahead of him collided on the final lap.

"It was tough in the wet in the first race but I got up near the front and sat behind Christchurch's [eventual race winner] Seth Devereux. I simply wasn't brave enough to try and pass him in those conditions.

"In the next race, it was dry and I had a reasonable start and was mixing it up with the leading bunch, working out where I was stronger. My tyre went 'off' near the end of the race and the wheel was spinning everywhere but I got the win in the end."

It was Holmes' maiden victory at national championship level and elevated him from a distant seventh overall after round one to now be second equal in the series standings, level with fellow Yamaha ace Lewis.

Christchurch's Ross now sits alone at the top of the standings, albeit just five points ahead of Lewis and Holmes, with Hassan slipping from first-equal to fourth.

Lewis (Bob McCleary Yamaha R6) finished fifth and second in his two races, good enough to finish third overall on the day.

The series continues at Teretonga, near Invercargill, next weekend, and then it takes a short break before resuming at Hampton Downs, near Meremere, on March 16-17. It wraps up at Taupo on March 23-24.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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