Donington Park this weekend sees Peter Hickman join a select group of riders to have started 300 Bennetts British Superbike Championship races with the landmark moment for the Smiths Racing BMW rider set to come in the second race at the Leicestershire venue.
“Making my 300th BSB start makes me feel old,” Hickman told bikesportnews.com. “To be honest, it’s not something I’ve thought a great deal about but I’m in a good group of riders to make it to 300 so that’s pretty cool and I’m hopeful I’ve got plenty more years ahead of me as well.”
It was Brands Hatch in March 2006 when the then 18-year-old made his BSB debut on the Hawk Racing Kawasaki and although he only finished 21st and 17th in his two maiden outings, by mid-season he’d become a regular points scorer going on to take a best finish of eighth at Croft.
“I was a young kid back then and it was my birthday at that first round but it was incredibly tough,” says Hickman. “The series had 30-odd riders, there were full factory bikes and different tyre manufacturers so it was very hard to compete.
“I was obviously excited to be a BSB rider and I did reasonably OK in those first races, challenging my team-mate and getting close to the points so it was good but tough.”
With the exception of 2008, when he dropped back into the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 Championship, he’s been an ever-present in BSB ever since riding Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki and BMW machinery. But it’s been a long road to get to where he has now and he’s had to work hard every year to try and make his mark.
It was definitely frustrating for the first few years as it was very difficult to get with the right team and on the right bike. You needed a big cheque book to get the good rides and that’s something I never had.
“I’d say 2011 was the first year I felt like I was on a decent bike when I rode the Tyco/Quay Garage Honda. It was an ex-Josh Brookes HM Plant Honda from the year before but I was still relying on help from various people to get to that stage and paid what I could afford. I also helped out where I could, paying the tyre bills and the like. It was definitely a steep learning curve.
“The series has evolved a great deal though and I’d say it’s changed for the better. With the single tyre and ECU rules, it’s possible now for a privateer to afford a race-winning bike. That didn’t exist ten years ago and the depth of teams now is stronger too.”
BSB Rider’s Cup Champion in 2016, the last two seasons have seen Hickman make it through to the Showdown on the BMW S1000RR and he’s now won four BSB races and taken 11 additional podiums while also establishing himself as, arguably, the best road racer of his generation.
What isn’t in doubt is the fact he’s the best all-rounder currently competing in the country and he’s currently in the middle of a spell that has taken him to the North West 200, back to Donington and then on to the TT.
“Switching between the two isn’t easy. Going from the short circuits to the roads isn’t too bad but going the other way is more difficult and after a week in Ireland, the first day at Donington will be hard. I’ll be fine by the second day though.”