When the superbike action takes place Saturday at the Isle of Man TT for the first time in three years, there will be one rider to be defeated: fifth -place TT champion Peter Hickman.
He was a favorite for three 1000cc races because of not only his record in the event but because of what he did when no TT was enforced by COVID.
While many of the competitors who have generally parked since June 2019 await their next opportunity to take the vicious 37.73 miles, Hickman typically rides every weekend at the British Superbike championships, where he has been a frontrunner over the past few seasons.
“I’ve been riding more than anyone,” Hickman told The Race prior to this year’s TT, “but I don’t know what that means I’m more prepared.
“I’m not more prepared than usual, on my own, but the big difference from 2019 to this year is that in 2019 we have a bike we don’t know because it’s so new.
“Now that I’ve been riding a bike for the last year at British Superbikes, this is my second year, and in a sense we know more about bikes than ever before.
“I still did 134.2mph laps in the sixth lap from the start, I won the Superstock TT by 19 seconds, and we had to win the Senior, but it didn’t match us.
“We are now strong with little or no preparation on the bike, so we will come this year with more.
“That doesn’t mean other people don’t do the same thing – see [2019 Senior TT winner] Dean [Harrison]who has been riding the BSB for a year continues to approach the front.
“This certainly isn’t going to make it any easier, but it just means from our point of view we don’t know where we are and where we want to be.”
With Harrison joining him at BSB to keep his eyes peeled and fit his body, Hickman thinks there won’t be a big change this year since 2019, when the pair walked home in the superbike and superstock classes.
“You never know what the public is doing,” he said, “but how many people are up front in 2019? Or even 2018, for that matter?
“It was just me and Dean, and I can’t remember exactly how far Conor came [Cummins] off but like a minute and a half in third position. It’s not so big a head, it’s just a fact.
“But all of that can change. Things change year after year, adaptive riders, bikers and teams get better, and you won’t know until you come.
“The North West 200 might be an inkling, but even then it doesn’t give the full picture, and I guess we’ll find out.
“A lot of people say that because we’re so far away, it’s going to be a long time – but I don’t think so.
“I haven’t done fast training in TT, if you look, even in BSB I’m not that fast. I run fast if I have to be fast.
“So I don’t know, but I don’t think time away will change anything. It’s tarmac, there are a few new bits, but the shape is the same as usual.
Another thing he is absolutely convinced of is that racing time at BSB in the interim does not affect TT’s performance in focus or concentration, or any other way.
“I never really struggle with it, and I don’t know why,” Hickman laughed.
“Even on the team, he would have said that I was protected before TT, but I didn’t feel it.
“When I got to BSB and got on my bike, I thought about racing there. I didn’t think of anything, just what I can do now to the maximum.
“I never thought it would be better not to push the last 5% because of TT. I don’t think so.
“Anything is going to happen, and I don’t believe in fate, but at the same time whatever is going to happen is going to happen and nothing can be done about it.
“If you’re going to put yourself in that risky position, then you have to keep going. There’s no point in surviving and the reality sometimes gets worse.
“I did everything 100%, like I’ve done, and nothing has changed. That goes for the business I run as well. I come to the race and I’m off. I don’t answer emails, phone calls, texts – I’m here to race and I do. will take care of all the issues I need to take care of on Monday.
However, the fact that he now has a successful business – he is an importer of Ohvale mini bikes in the UK and participates in the MotoGP MiniGP series in the UK – is all due to TT’s successful debut in 2014.
Prior to being a central BSB driver who had never been on a regular podium, Hickman remained convinced that the desire to move into road racing was not about financial rewards, although he had done well since then, but much better. the opportunity to continue racing at a high level but on a small budget.
“Going to TT suddenly changed my motorcycle career. It changed my life, ”she admits.
“In early 2014, I didn’t ride BSB unless I had a big salary, and I never had a big salary so that didn’t happen.
“I don’t know how much I owe, maybe £ 30,000 or £ 40,000. I don’t own anything, not even a car or a van. I borrow everything. I live in a motor home that doesn’t belong to me. I literally don’t own anything, no. two cents to scratch together.
“Going to TT is not about money, never, but I want to keep racing even though it has really gone bankrupt.
“I just love racing bikes, and I want to know how to do it. I couldn’t make money at the time, and that’s not what happened – but I could race with a small amount of money, I got a little help, some of the people who sponsored me were will not sponsor. me at BSB. I ask for help. “
Going into the TT and absolutely blilitzing out every newcomer record, Hickman established himself early as one to watch – a bill that began to live up to with 10 podiums and five wins from six subsequent outings there.
With a legacy of riding with Honda’s RAF Reserves team at BSB after TT after the tragic death of driver Simon Andrews in the North West 200, Hickman was finally able to find himself in the place he believed he needed to be – and then prove himself. his own skills are not the only ones on the road by taking a win at the Cadwell Park home race later in the year to start a renaissance in his career.
“Then I did nothing,” he explains of his first year at TT. “I was good on the North West 200, I was good on the TT, and in the end I got a pretty BSB ride.
“I was lucky at Cadwell when the weather helped and I felt good and strong. I won the race, and I haven’t seen it since.
“Going to TT turned my BSB career around. I won the race after starting the year with nothing, for the first time since I participated in the championship in 2004 and the BSB in 2006. Then last year I didn’t ride, I won the race, which was really ridiculous.
“Racing at TT doesn’t make me a better circuit driver, because I’m always strong, but I can get the right opportunities on the right team. I definitely have one or the other – the team is good but doesn’t have the budget and the motore is a bit naff. or the bike is good and the team is not good.
“It was never a complete, complete package, and what TT did was open the door to get me on the right bike with the right team and into the right position.”
And, now he is still in the right place with the FHO Racing team at BSB and on the road, he will enter TT this year in a more confident place than ever before.
But – and it’s great though – it will only happen if things are right for a 35 -year -old.
Prepared to deal with the inherent risks of TT to a point, he is more than aware of how much danger comes with it, and is not ready to go beyond the limits just to win.
“The target is always to go there and win,” he said. “It’s different for me, I think, I want to win but I don’t force myself to win.
“I know the team can, I know the bike can, I know I can because I’m done – but if something doesn’t fit, then this isn’t your day.
“I’m not going to get out of my comfort zone by saying ‘I don’t feel right and I need to push more.’
“I’ll push until I’m comfortable, and if I’m comfortable I’ll go. If something goes wrong, I’ll be back next year or tomorrow or anytime.
“The risks are just too great, and you have to think right. If you really are, the hosts are good.”