It has been a year since Invercargill's Jeremy Holmes last raced at the Hampton Downs circuit, just north of Huntly, but the Honda ace showed on Saturday that he'd forgotten nothing.
Holmes (Castrol Honda CBR600RR) demonstrated that he will be a force to be reckoned with this summer after finishing runner-up in the 600cc class at the opening round of the popular Tri Series at the Waikato track on Saturday, a competition he is using as part of his warmup for the nationals that kick off in the South Island in January.
Holmes finished 3-2 in his two Formula Two races on Saturday, leaving him just behind the day's big winner, Aucklander Jaden Hassan, who made the most of his home track advantage to record two wins and take a nine-point series lead with him to the next round at Manfeild this coming Sunday.
With Holmes not planning to race at the series' final round on the public streets of Wanganui on Boxing Day, he has no real hope of winning the F2 trophy in the Tri Series, but he was still satisfied with progress in his builup for the nationals.
"That's my main aim and it all seems to be going to plan," said the 32-year-old manager at the Southland Honda bike shop.
"I actually grabbed the holeshot in both races and, funny thing is, I didn't know what to do with a clear track ahead of me. We had a practise session in the wet but it was dry by the time of the races and I didn't have the right reference points for braking. I was running wide in a lot of the corners.
"When Jaden (Hassan) came past me it was actually a relief because I could learn from him. He gave me a few clues. But he was riding awesome today and I couldn't beat him. I was really happy to finish where I did after not racing here in so long and Jaden's a local so it was good to learn from watching him.
"A top three finish is my goal for the nationals. I'm not doing the whole Tri Series, but the nationals are a different story."
The New Zealand Superbike Championships kick off at Ruapuna, on the outskirts of Christchurch, on January 5-6.
Castrol Honda Superbike Team co-ordinator Peter Finlay, of Auckland, said he was satisfied with the performance of his three riders on Saturday.
"It was a positive start to the Tri Series by all our riders," he said.
"Everyone was making good gains and our two new Honda riders, Whakatane's Tony Rees and Christchurch's James Smith, both made good progress too. Tony and James are getting used to the Honda CBR1000RR and it's looking good for the nationals."
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