TT winner in waiting
Hickman shows potential with 100% podium record
‘I felt comfortable before the red flag in the Senior – so I think I could have won that one’
Everyone was expecting TT 2017 to be the Hutchinson v Dunlop show after the intense rivalry that brewed between the two quickest men ever to lap the mountain course last year. But if anywhere is going to confound expectations, it’s the Isle of Man. In all of the races that ran last week, there was no Hutchy v Dunlop showdown. Hutchy took two races, as did Michael but in each race they won, the other wasn’t even in contention. While there are many reasons for this, including weather and machine problems, the other simple fact is that there were a couple of riders who upped the ante to take the fight to the dominant duo.
And none more notable than Smiths BMW’S Peter Hickman, who didn’t just finish on the podium in every race he entered, but fought for the victory in both the Superbike and Senior TT races.
Hickman’s TT prowess was obvious from the moment he first turned a wheel on the mountain course. Making his debut in 2014, he became the TT’S fastest-ever newcomer as he was lapping at close to 130mph by the end of his rookie week. Since then he has steadily improved and was a serious podium contender in 2016 but was denied the chance to stand on the box after a string of technical issues.
“I’ve said all along that I felt I should have been on the podium last year, so I had to do it this year didn’t I?” Hickman told MCN after taking his first podium in the Superbike race.
But Hickman went on to do so much more than secure his first podium – and people took note. “Hickman has only been doing this four years, Dunlop and Hutchy want to be worried about when he starts winning,” said a member the TT’S management team after the Senior.
In 2016, the then 29-year-old was visibly frustrated to have missed out on his debut podium. This year, had Hutchy not crashed and the Senior been restarted, he could well have taken his debut win. But he didn’t let his frustration show.
“I felt comfortable on the opening lap before the red flag so if Hutchy hadn’t crashed I think I could’ve won that one,” he says matter of factly.
“I had an issue with the clutch but was still fighting for the lead. I gave it everything when we went back out. Everything I could, but I wasn’t fast enough for Michael.
“I don’t take it to heart, he’s won 15 races around here now – compared to guys like that I’m massively inexperienced. They’ve all been coming for 10 years longer than I have and I’m not far away in terms of pace! Every year I’m getting faster and more comfortable so I’m more than happy with five podiums and the Joey Dunlop Championship trophy [awarded to the rider with the best results across the week].”
Hickman’s laid back persona is unusual for a motorcycle racer. If you speak to Hutchinson or Dunlop it’s all about winning – nothing else is good enough, but Hickman is just focused on having a good time and not pushing the limits. He’s much more of the John Mcguinness approach to the Isle of Man TT than Michael Dunlop’s, and that school of thought didn’t turn out too bad for Mcguinness, did it?
“I try not to think about winning as that’s when you start making mistakes and push beyond where you should be,” Hickman says. “I try to be level headed and let it come to me really. To be honest, when I saw boards telling me I was P1 on the first start of the Senior, that’s when I first started to think about taking the win, but even on the restart I was realistic enough to know Michael would be the man if he’d sorted his problems out.”
Of course, now he’s finished second three times and fought for victory on two of those occasions, even the chilled out Hickman can’t deny he’s going to be looking to win in 2018.
“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to win, so to be on the podium, the next aim is to go one better. That’s the next thing we need to achieve and of course I’ll be trying 100%.”