First of all, many congratulations for your amazing TT! You have left a lot of people speechless. Watching you riding around the Mountain Course you seemed like a veteran: precise, smooth, it seemed even easy. But surely it hasn’t been…
Thank you very much! The TT was an amazing couple of weeks for me and I don’t think I could have asked for anything more from my first year! Lots of people have been surprised at how smooth I ride but to be honest I have always been the same. My whole short circuit career I have been very smooth, I don’t know how to ride any other way!
Why did you choose to ride at the TT?
I chose to ride the TT because I felt the time was right. I have been watching the TT for many years with great interest and it’s been awesome to finally do it myself.
Who introduced you into road racing?
Good question! My father Dave Hickman raced professionally back in the 70’s, he ran in the British Championships as well as Grand Prix. He also raced at the TT and won a manx in 77. This was all way before I was born though! I grew up in the racing paddocks as after he retired from racing due to a bad accident at Mallory Park, he became a development engineer and ran teams at British and Grand Prix level. He never wanted me to race bikes however and always pushed for me to try something else, either football or golf even! It was only when I bought my own bike with my own pocket money when I was 12 that he decided that maybe he should help, as I was going to do it anyway!!
Did you expect to be so fast straight from the first practice? Which was your mph target (if you had one)?
Not at all. I was very surprised that I managed 115 mph on only my second ever lap by myself on the first night, it was a nice surprise though! I honestly didn’t set myself any targets at all. However, I did think that I should be capable of achieving 125mph on a stocker and it was great that I proved myself right. Having said that, I never pushed myself once beyond what I thought was safe.
What was the most difficult thing for you? I mean, from the moment you realised you’d have wanted to ride at the TT till the end of your last race.
Having to wait so long to get my first lap!! It took forever!
How did you prepare yourself (phisically and mentally) for the TT? How many times did you go to the IOM before the TT?
I did lots of homework, and I mean lots! From the start of January to the end of April I came over to the IOM seven times for at least two days at a time, sometimes three. I also watched countless onboard laps from last year and played the playstation game from a few years ago. Physically I didn’t find the TT hard at all. I found it a lot less physical than racing in BSB which I have been doing since 2006 so I never had a problem.
Which is the most difficult section of the Mountain Course?
The part I found the hardest to learn before getting on the bike was from Rhencullen to Ballaugh. I think mainly because there isn’t many reference points and there’s lots of trees and hedges that line the way making it hard to see what’s next, it’s also so fast that it was hard to understand from the DVD’s exactly what the rider is doing at each point.
Exactly right. I was one of the first riders in BSB to use Bitubo back in 2006. I have used it a lot and have done some development work with them over the years. Also, Steve Hicken from Buildbase BMW is the importer for Bitubo and he was at the TT for the whole two weeks looking after Micheal Dunlop so I knew I had the support there if I needed anything.
We noticed that your bike was “high”, suspensions wise (I mean, the stroke seemed “long”): that’s because of your height or else?
It isn’t anything to do with me or my riding style, it’s more to do with how the BMW works best. I have ridden a BMW quite a lot in BSB so knew roughly where I needed to be with it from the first practice.
After the first experience at the TT and having gained your reference points on the course, do you think that on the IOM mental condition is more important than physical condition, compared to a short track?
Absolutely. The main thing at the IOM TT for me is knowledge. Knowledge of the course, the conditions, the bumps, the change in tarmac. It is so hard to learn, which is why the experienced guys are so much faster than everyone else. On a short circuit you can learn it within a few laps and then go fast, at the TT you’re looking at a few years!
We saw that your braking point in some sections (like Drinkwater’s Bend) was further than the one of the other riders, a style you shared with Joshua Brookes (or at least it seemed like this to us…!). Is it due to the fact you both come from short tracks?
Haha! Well it’s good to know that I’m good there! I guess it must be. I didn’t make a conscious effort to brake later than anyone, in fact I haven’t even followed anyone through there yet. I rode it as I saw it, maybe the short circuit racer in me saw that section different to other riders.
Since the Mountain Course is always open throughout the year to public traffic, does it affect the grip? Can a short circuit rider like you definitely feel this difference?
It’s an interesting topic. One I asked myself before riding at the TT and the Northwest 200. For me I felt there was a lot more grip than I expected. Some sections were definitely better than others but as a whole I never found it a problem.
What future projects do you have? Are you going to do other road races this season?
I have now secured a permanent ride back in BSB for the remainder of this year with the RAF Reserves Honda Team which I am really happy about. I will however be racing on the roads again this year, at the Ulster Grand Prix and Macau Grand Prix with Ice Valley by Motorsave Trade BMW again. Both of which I can’t wait for!!
Thank you Peter, all the best!