New force Hickman is beaming in on kings of the road
Peter Hickman, regarded by many as the man who could potentially dethrone big guns Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson at the Isle of Man TT in June, has secured a deal that will see him ride for Smiths Racing BMW in 2017 - and he will make his road racing debut for the team at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in May.
The 29-year-old, who won the Macau Grand Prix for a second year in succession aboard BMW machinery in November last year, is also the North West 200's fastest ever newcomer and is looking forward to riding the Smiths Racing S1000RR at the Triangle - a bike that he will also campaign in the British Superbike series during 2017.
"I have another new challenge to look forward to this season," said the Burton-on-Trent rider, who has a successful history on BMW's German-build machinery.
"I'm relishing it aboard the Smiths Racing BMW. I know the BMW well having ridden it in the past and we've been promised the right support, which will make a difference."
Hickman took two British Superbike race wins in 2016 but all of his major road race successes to date have come on BMWs.
The lofty Englishman took his first international road race victory on an S1000RR at the Ulster Grand Prix in 2015 and both of his Macau victories have also been with the German marque.
Last season, Hickman claimed his first North West podiums with runner-up spot in the Spidi Superstock race behind Hutchinson and a third-place finish in the Bet McLean Supersport event on the Trooper Beer Kawasaki.
He also claimed a fine fourth in the Anchor Complex Superbike race.
North West 200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte said: "As one of the fastest men on the roads today, it will be great to have Peter Hickman back at the North West 200 in May.
"The Smiths team has a superb racing pedigree having won races on the roads and short circuits and we are delighted the team will make their 2017 road racing debut with Peter at Portrush."