ULSTER GP: Hickman expecting records to tumble at Dundrod

Peter Hickman has been in red-hot form on the Smiths BMW this season.
Peter Hickman has been in red-hot form on the Smiths BMW this season.

Peter Hickman is confident the outright lap record at the MCE Ulster Grand Prix will be blitzed on Saturday if conditions at Dundrod remain dry this week.

Ian Hutchinson clocked the first ever 134mph road racing lap in 2016 as he won a blistering second Superbike race around the 7.4-mile course to complete a superb four-timer, raising the benchmark to 134.089mph.

Hutchy misses out this year through injury, but Smiths BMW rider Hickman – fresh from a victory in race two in Sunday’s MCE British Superbike round at Thruxton – expects the pace to be every bit as hot.

The 30-year-old, who finished on the podium in each of the five main solo races at the Isle of Man TT in June, said: “I definitely think we could go a lot faster than 134mph. It all depends on the conditions obviously; if we can have a good couple of days of practice and get to Saturday with some good laps under our belt then I don’t see why we can’t push it up to maybe 135mph or 136mph.

“It’d be great to have a lap record around a road circuit, apart from my newcomer record at the TT I’ve not had an outright lap record anywhere on the roads so it’d be nice to do something like that, and good to do it at the Ulster.”

Hickman, already a winner at Dundrod following his victory in the second Superbike race in 2015 in only his second appearance at the event, is hungry to add some more coveted Ulster GP trophies to his collection.

“We want to turn up at Dundrod and have some good racing and at least be on the podium a few times and we want wins as well, that’s why we’re turning up. I can’t see why we can’t be in the top three in all the classes,” he said.

“It’s been a really strong year for me; the BMW has been working really well, we’ve managed to find a little bit of a sweet spot with it, which makes life a lot easier.

“I’m expecting there to be a few of us at the front and hopefully we’ll put on some good racing for the fans: Michael Dunlop, Dean Harrison, Dan Kneen and Conor Cummins should all be in the mix.”

Like most racers, the easy-going English rider is a huge fan of the fast and flowing nature of the awesome Dundrod course.

“Dundrod is just an untouched, proper circuit, just as it should be. It’s fast, it’s flowing, it hasn’t had to be adapted with chicanes to try and make it safer; it already is as safe as you can make a road race, even though it is ridiculously fast,” he said.

“It’s just such a good circuit to ride around, it makes me smile from the second I go out.

“I enjoy riding on the roads so much, it’s so much fun, and I also enjoy the British Superbikes. I’m fast doing both which is why I get so much excitement from both. For me it’s all about riding bikes as much as possible.”

Ulster GP Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston rates Hickman as a live contender for the ‘Man of the Meeting’ award this year.

“Hicky is on superb form this year, and let’s not forget he was the fastest ever man through our speed trap last year at 199.8mph,” he said.

“He’s just a real natural talent and the beauty of it is that despite how well he’s riding at the moment, I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet. With the right set of circumstances, he could be serious contender for the Man of the Meeting.”

Practice gets underway on Wednesday, with roads closed from 10am to 9.30pm.

Final qualifying plus the Charles Hurst Motorcycles Dundrod 150 takes place on Thursday ahead of Saturday’s main event.