Kyle White: Peter Hickman can rule roads for years to come

Peter Hickman has raised the bar at the Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix.
Peter Hickman has raised the bar at the Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix.
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This year’s Ulster Grand Prix will live long in the memory after Peter Hickman delivered a performance that will be talked about for years to come.

The English rider has raised the bar and his rivals will need to produce something very special indeed to put the brakes on the 32-year-old’s dominance at the Isle of Man TT and Ulster GP in particular.

English rider Peter Hickman and his Smiths Racing team have become serial winners at the international road races. The 32-year-old won seven races from seven starts at the Ulster Grand Prix, equalled Phillip McCallen's 1996 record of five wins in a day and established a new outright lap record of 136.415mph.

English rider Peter Hickman and his Smiths Racing team have become serial winners at the international road races. The 32-year-old won seven races from seven starts at the Ulster Grand Prix, equalled Phillip McCallen's 1996 record of five wins in a day and established a new outright lap record of 136.415mph.

Northern Ireland road racing legend Phillip McCallen’s five-wins-in-a-day record at Dundrod in 1996 stood for 23 years, but the Portadown man now shares the honour with the popular Hickman, who has won over the Irish road racing fans with his down-to-earth character and approachable demeanour.

Always smiling, there is no one more relaxed in the paddock than the seemingly unflappable Hickman, who goes about his business with the air of a man who has total belief in his ability, which never manifests itself in arrogance or cockiness.

Instantly likeable, Hickman always makes time for the media and his fans and despite his rapid rise to the pinnacle of road racing, he is still the same person who made his debut on the roads in 2014.

In such a short space of time, Hickman has ripped up the record books, setting the first ever 135mph lap at the Isle of Man TT in 2018 before reaching another milestone with that scorching 136.415mph lap in last Thursday’s opening Superbike race.

Carrick's Glenn Irwin looks set to step up his road racing exploits in 2020.

Carrick's Glenn Irwin looks set to step up his road racing exploits in 2020.

Far from being at the limit of his capabilities, there is more to come from the British Superbike contender, who is running a standard motor in his Smiths BMW S1000RR Superbike.

That must be a major concern for his chief rivals, none of whom could lay a glove on Hickman in any of the three Superbike races at Dundrod.

Lee Johnston was the only rider who really made Hickman work hard for his success in the Supersport class, when he still managed to come out on top by fractions of a second.

He has found the perfect environment in the Smiths Racing team and together they have become serial winners.

Michael Dunlop has been there and done it but will the 30-year-old be able to take the fight to Peter Hickman next year?

Michael Dunlop has been there and done it but will the 30-year-old be able to take the fight to Peter Hickman next year?

There is every reason to believe Hickman will continue to go from strength to strength after he raised his own game to another level in 2019.

In contrast, the opposition were unable to go with him and nearest challenger Dean Harrison admits he will be forced to ‘go back to the drawing board’ as he looks for a way to take the fight to Hickman next season.

Fellow big names such as Conor Cummins and James Hillier appear to have reached their maximum potential at the TT, while Ian Hutchinson continues to struggle for peak form and 23-time Mountain Course winner John McGuinness is entering the twilight of an illustrious career.

Bruce Anstey falls into the same category as McGuinness, and Lee Johnston – by his own admission – is best suited to the Supersport class.

Can Michael Dunlop, who is still only 30 years old, step up to challenge Hickman?

The Ballymoney man had a mountain to climb after making his comeback this year and his well-documented injury problems ruined any prospects he had at Dundrod.

Dunlop has been there and done it but he may need a new approach in 2020 to rival Hickman, who has so many more racing miles in the bank over the course of a season.

Young prospect Davey Todd is making his way through the ranks and his 131mph lap in the Senior TT in only his second year at the event really stood out in June.

The 23-year-old could be the one to eventually give Hickman something to worry about, but perhaps in the more immediate future Glenn Irwin will bring something to the party.

A promising start with the Tyco BMW team at Thruxton was just what the Carrick man needed and Irwin says he will be on the grid at Dundrod next year, while speculation also continues to grow that he will make his TT debut with TAS Racing.

Irwin has won the last four Superbike races in a row at the North West and he finished on the podium twice in the Supersport races at the UGP in 2015, when he was only beaten by Lee Johnston and William Dunlop.

The 28-year-old beat Hickman at the Macau Grand Prix in 2017, when admittedly the race was cut short due to the fatal crash that claimed the life of Dan Hegarty.

For now though, Hickman can rightfully lay claim to being the best road racer in the world and his reign could last for years to come.