TT champ eyes NZ race records
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At the same time that Peter Hickman was breaking through as an Isle of Man TT winner and record holder earlier this year, he was planning his first New Zealand racing campaign.
Hickman, 31, from Burton-upon-Trent, is the international star of this year’s Suzuki Series that makes three stops at New Zealand tracks this month.
It’s a coup for the Kiwi series to headline the world’s fastest road racer as it builds towards its road race finale on the streets of Whanganui.
Hickman’s 16min 42.778secs final lap chasing down Dean Harrison in the 2018 Senior TT averaged 135.452mph, shattered all records for the historic 37.75-mile TT course. It’s faster than any other race lap of any closed road circuit.
The New Zealand visit was initiated during the 2018 TT week by Tauranga’s Gavin Sokolich, international manager of Carl Cox Motorsport.
“I was wandering along the paddock heading off to my garage and Gavin stopped me,” says Hickman. . He said ‘My name’s Gav and I work with Carl Cox.
Would you be interested in coming to New Zealand to do the Suzuki Series?’
Hickman’s trip is a further phase of New Zealand involvement for British international record producer/DJ and hard core motorsport enthusiast Cox. His team supplies bikes and sponsors riders internationally and Kiwis are prominent among the solo and sidecar racers competing under the Carl Cox Motorsport banner.
Even before Hickman climbed aboard the BMW S1000RR at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park last weekend, he was in a hurry.
“We landed on Friday morning in Auckland so I missed Friday practice. I went out on Saturday for four 20-minute sessions so I didn’t have a massive amount of time to learn the circuit. It’s quite a technical circuit and good fun.
“We qualified on the front row — I was about 0.3secs off the lap record.
“I got away really good in race one and was sitting behind the front two but unfortunately an over-exuberant Honda hit me in the back. Damon [Rees] got a little excited on the brakes into turn 11 and ... we both went into the gravel.
“He ended up falling off and I managed to stay on. By the time I came back I was dead last and I got back up to 14th before the race was red-flagged for oil on the track.
“Race two, I didn’t get a good start and I was kind of stuck in fifth place. We learned a bit and we’re working on what we need to beat the others.”
The Suzuki Series moves to its second round at Manfeild on Sunday.
Racing in New Zealand and a foray to the Macau Grand Prix in November are additional to Hickman’s two major racing commitments — the British SuperBike Championship and the major road races such as the TT, Northwest 200 and Ulster TT where Hickman has posted wins in 2018.
A relatively new rider on the “roads”, he has surged to prominence since making his TT debut in 2014, scoring his first podiums in 2017 and winning the SuperStock 1000 and Senior TT this year setting race and lap records.
“What put me in the best stead was I did so much homework for it that first year.
“I’d been riding 1000cc bikes for 10 years before I came to the TT with eight years in the British SuperBike Championship.
“It’s all about knowledge.”
He did 70 car laps, each taking an hour, of the 60km TT circuit.
“You’re looking at 70 hours of driving ... along with playing the PlayStation game and watching the onboard videos.”
He says part of the appeal of the 113-year-old TT is there is no middle ground — people either love or loathe the it.
“Everything about it is special. The risk is one factor, the speed is another.
You’re nearly riding around a whole island and you’re doing it in, well 16min 42secs. The Boxing Day Whanganui street race also boasts history. It started in 1951 and has missed just two years — and riders either perform on the day or put their hopes on hold for another year.