Team Suzuki Press Office – January 20.

Defending champion Dennis Charlett came under attack at the second of four rounds of the New Zealand Superbike Championship at Timaru at the weekend.

The 46-year-old Christchurch Suzuki rider enjoyed a fantastic opening round at Ruapuna last weekend, but it was a different story at Timaru's Levels Raceway fellow Suzuki rider Jaden Hassan mounted an attack.

Aucklander Hassan qualified his Suzuki GSX-R1000 fastest at the Levels circuit and then proceeded to score an impressive hat-trick of race wins, elevating him from third – and a distant 40 points behind Charlett – after the series opener to second spot and just seven points adrift of the reigning champion.

In contrast, Charlett finished 3-3-5 in his three outings at Levels.

Hassan (20) had been expected to be one of the superbike class front-runners this season after his scintillating performances in the pre-season Suzuki Series, but nobody expected such a rapid resurrection after his disappointing start to the nationals.

Said Hassan: "I'm pretty stoked with how things have turned out now. I was pretty disappointed after last weekend, so to come out on top this weekend is a great feeling.

"It was pretty hot here today, 38 degrees I think, and James Smith made it hot for me on the track in the last race too. I'm just glad to come away with such a good result. I'll have a couple of weekends off now and then do some testing to get set for the next round at Hampton Downs. We have a six-week break now, before wrapping it up with two rounds back-to-back.

"This is the best South Island racing experience I have had. It was good for me to be as quick as Dennis on his South Island tracks and now he'll come north to hopefully be chasing me on the North Island tracks. That's the plan anyway."

Now third in the superbike standings is Smith, eight points behind Hassan, with Wellington Suzuki rider Sloan Frost in fourth spot in the championship chase and visiting Australian Linden Magee rounding out the top five.

In the 600cc Supersport class, Christchurch brothers James and Alastair Hoogenboezem continue to lead the way on their identical Suzuki GSX-R600 bikes. James led the class after the opening round but Alastair came on strong at Levels, taking pole position in qualifying and then scoring a lap record on his way to winning all three races. James crashed in one of his races but still managed to recover and finish 13th, salvaging something from the disaster and, although he's slipped off the lead, he is still in second position.

Round three of the series is set for Hampton Downs, near Meremere, on March 7-8th with the fourth and final round set for Taupo on March 14-15th.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan@ www.bikesportnz.com

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