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Peter Hickman: Forgotten star of 2011?
12 December 2011
By Layla Williams
After such a thrilling end to the 2011 British Superbike season, it's easy to forget the performances of riders outside the top six 'Title Fighters'.
Riders like Peter Hickman can have their best ever season in BSB, but being outside of all-important top six meant his achievements were obviously overshadowed. However they shouldn't be is forgotten.
Hickman was born into racing; his father rode with the likes of Kenny Roberts in the 70s until a serious accident curtailed his racing career in 1979. Bikes then took him into mechanics and the younger Hickman spent many weekends with his father in the GP and WSBK paddocks.
But it wasn't until a BSB meeting at Cadwell Park when he was 13 that Peter decided he wanted to follow in his dad's footsteps and race. He was sat watching Chaz Davies and Casey Stoner race in the 125cc Superteen Championship when the commentators caught his attention.
“They were talking about how young these guys were racing at 15 years old and I remember thinking, I'm only a couple of years younger than them... I could do this!”
He met one stumbling block pretty early on however. After his own accident his father was not just reluctant to let his son race – he was totally against it. “He pushed me into every sport he could think about to keep me away from racing.”
Seeing Stoner and Davies - and also the immense battles of Walker and Hodgson - made Hickman so desperate to race that he saved up his pocket money for a year and, behind his dad's back, bought his own 'bike'... otherwise known at that point as a pile of parts in a wheelbarrow and hid it behind the house.
“It wasn't until I realised that I had no idea how to put it together that I thought it was time to fess up and ask for help!”
His dad realised that he was serious about going racing, with or without his help, and started supporting his dream by getting in touch with friends who had bikes and land to help get him started.
Hickman's first major accident and therefore test of his determination to be a racer happened in 2002 when he was knocked off at Snetterton and then run over by Guy Sanders.
“I was sat in the medical centre pretty beaten up and dad said if I wanted to give it up he wouldn't stop me because this was what racing was all about; I was going to crash again and it was going to hurt. I wasn't going to race that weekend but I got up the next morning, borrowed some leathers and off I went.”
Asked if then, or since, he has ever thought about giving up racing Hickman had one short answer; “No never!”
Hickman appears one of the most relaxed riders on or off the grid. He seems to take everything in his stride but don't be fooled, he is determined to succeed.
“You don't start racing just to give up when it gets hard; you aim to be a World Champion and you'll do whatever it takes to get there.”
Hickman's first taste of Superbikes was in 2006 where he had some great battles with the up and coming Johnny Rea, while also qualifying and finishing in the top ten on multiple occasions.
2009 and 2010 tested Hickman again when he was competing for his self-run Ultimate Team and frequently struggled to get from one round to the next due to a lack of funds.
Hickman's efforts were finally rewarded in 2011 when he signed for Quay Garage Honda; he had Kiyonari's title-winning bike from 2010 and was sure he finally had the equipment to fulfil his potential.
Taking his mechanics from Ultimate Racing - and his dad as Crew Chief - Hickman turned up for round one at Brands Hatch with a total of just two days of testing under his belt. His reward came at round four, Thruxton, when he finished fifth in race one - then second in race two!
“Thruxton this year was awesome; standing on the podium for the first time with Shakey and Hopper and even finishing in front of Hopkins was so special. I led my first race in BSB for more than just a few corners which was also the first time at all since 2004. After everything I was disappointed with fifth in race 1 as I was on the podium until I made a mistake on the last lap, so I was made up to finally get there in race 2.”
Although Hickman took members of his own team with him, he instantly gelled with Quay Garage and quickly found the balance between hard work and enjoying all that goes along with racing. There had been some talk of favouritism for team-mate Tommy Bridewell, but Hickman insisted that wasn't the case.
“Just because Tommy had a history with the team, it was made very clear to me at the start that I wasn't number 2 and would always be treated equally within the team.”
Hickman, ninth overall in this season's standings, has been talking to numerous teams for 2012 but would like to remain with Quay Garage. “I'm so grateful to them for the chance they gave me; they took a risk signing me and gave me the best opportunity to show what I can really do.”
But Quay Garage's 2012 prospects have taken a hit with the defection of Tyco, their title sponsor, to TAS Suzuki. Even before Tyco left, finances were a problem with Hickman bringing his own money to the team and not taking a wage all year.
Hickman thus faces an anxious wait to find out if the team will be on the grid, whilst keeping his other options open.
Looking at BSB 2012 in general, there has been some controversy amongst a few riders about the new round at Assen, in The Netherlands, next year. However Hickman thinks the European appearance is a great addition.
“It's wicked! For me personally it's not really going to add that much extra cost relative to a British round – for me it's probably quicker and cheaper than going up to Knockhill. It's been in the pipeline for 3 or 4 years now and BSB has been growing and evolving for the last 15 years – this is just the next step.
“BSB's international audiences have been growing with expanding TV coverage and the attraction of top names like Hopkins so this just gives them a chance to get closer to the action as well.”
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