Hickman determined to build on maiden North West 200 win
The world's fastest road racer, Peter Hickman, will get his 2019 road race campaign under way at the fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils on May 12-18.
Hickman took his maiden NW200 victory in Thursday's Superstock race last year to set him on his way to a superb 2018.
He claimed a TT double, including an amazing lap record of 135.452mph on his way to victory in the Senior, an Ulster Grand Prix double, clinched his third Macau Grand Prix win and then finished his year off with victory in the Robert Holden Memorial race at the Whanganui Cemetery Circuit in New Zealand.
This came on top of finishing fifth in the British Superbike Championship.
Hickman's record-breaking lap around the Mountain Circuit last June eclipsed Dean Harrison's 2017 absolute lap record at Dundrod of 134.614mph and the 32-year-old intends to pick up where he left off in 2018.
"I will have done the first two BSB rounds before I come to the North West, so I should be up to speed and hopefully ready to go," he said.
He rides BMWs under the Smiths/Briggs Equipment banner in Superbike and Superstock plus the Trooper Beer/Iron Maiden Triumph in the Supersport class.
Two titanic battles with Alastair Seeley in last year's Superstock races saw Hickman win the first by half a second, while Seeley won race two on Saturday by a fifth of a second from Hickman.
The Burton-on-Trent rider re-called: "It was really cool to get my first North West 200 win. I had been close a few times, but it all came together last year."
Hickman, a man who never lacks confidence, said of his 2019 challenge: "I haven't ridden my BMW stocker or the Triumph since last year's Ulster Grand Prix and although I have ridden my Superbike, it wasn't on the roads.
"Last year the bikes were the same as 2017, making things a bit easier, but this time BMW have a new model and that will probably make things a bit harder."
Delays in the delivery of the new S1000RR BMW have meant Hickman's Superbike preparations for the roads and BSB have been slower than he would have liked.
"We only got our bikes 23 days ago, which is very late and there are no parts available," Hickman explained. "I hope to ride the Superbike this week for the first time and I'm probably at a slight disadvantage. There isn't anything I can do about that."
On his rivals, Hickman said: "I think the men to watch will be the same people I have raced against every year at the North West. Glenn Irwin, Alastair Seeley, Michael Dunlop and Dean Harrison will all be strong.
"Alastair will be strongest on the new Ducati V4. However, I am definitely not saying we are fighting a losing battle, I am always there to win. The North West is like a BSB race on the road and you can go from first to fifth or fifth to first in an instant due to the slipstreaming effect."