Peter Hickman is ready to establish the Ulster Grand Prix as the world’s fastest road race once more after confirming his return to Dundrod in August.
Hickman and fellow top road racer Dean Harrison visited the legendary course on Monday to launch the 2019 event, which takes place from August 5-10.
Smiths Racing BMW rider Hickman set the first ever 135mph lap as he won last year’s Senior race at the Isle of Man TT, but the British Superbike contender believes he can better his 135.452mph benchmark this summer and return the title to the Ulster GP.
Hickman, who won the Superbike, second Supersport and Superstock races at the weather-hit TT earlier this month, said: “If the conditions are right and the track is good I think it can be the fastest again.
“Overall I think the Ulster is a faster track with only one slow corner.”
Hickman has been the Man of the Meeting at the Ulster Grand Prix over the past two seasons, clinching a hat-trick in 2017 with victories in both Supersport races and the Superstock event. He also won the Dundrod 150 Superbike race during the same year.
In 2018, the event was thwarted by inclement weather, but Hickman added to his Dundrod tally with victories in the Supersport and Superbike classes.
The Burton-on-Trent rider has become the man to beat at the major international road races, chalking up multiple wins at the North West 200, TT, Ulster GP and Macau after making his road racing debut in 2014.
He will again ride BMW machinery for Smiths Racing in the Superbike and Superstock races plus the Trooper Beer Triumph in the Supersport class.
Hickman said: “Dundrod is a track that suits my style because I like to carry plenty of corner speed and we are fairly certain we have sorted the water pressure problem we had on the Superbike at the TT.”
The English rider was denied victory in the showpiece Senior TT after his 2019-spec BMW S1000RR began to overheat, handing victory to Bradford man Harrison.
“We are still learning with the new bike but we aren’t sure whether or not we will have a full Superbike engine for the Ulster, or if we will run the blueprinted engine that gives just 8bhp more than standard,” added Hickman, who will be kept busy between now and the last of the ‘big three’ major road races in August.
“I’ve BSB races at Knockhill, Snetterton and Thruxton to come and an outing in the French Superbike championship testing for Dunlop tyres.”
Harrison has emerged as Hickman’s chief rival on the roads and the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki rider finally secured the Superbike victory he craved at the TT.
He smashed the lap record in the Superstock race at the Ulster GP in 2018 on his ZX-10RR and as the outright lap record holder following a speed of 134.614mph set in 2017, the 30-year-old certainly knows his way around the fast and flowing 7.4-mile Dundrod course.
“I think it is a faster circuit [than the TT] and all we need is sunshine and a good close race and the lap record could go,” said Harrison, who will ride Kawasaki machines across the board in the Superbike, Superstock and Supersport classes.
“But I would rather have a podium than a lap record, even if it is a world record.”
Harrison has become a regular in the British Superbike Championship and like Hickman, he will have plenty of mileage under his belt to ensure he arrives at Dundrod in peak form in less than two months’ time.
He will also compete at the Southern 100 on the Isle of Man next month, when he will start as the hot favourite for more honours.
“I approach every race in the same way,” said Harrison.
“I try to get on the podium and if you are in the right place at the right time the wins will take care of themselves.”
A number of UGP Bike Week events will begin on August 5, with practice taking place on Wednesday, August 7.
Final qualifying will be held on the Thursday morning of race week, with the Ulster Grand Prix racing programme commencing in the afternoon.
The first Superbike, Supersport, Supertwin and Ultralightweight/Lightweight races will be held to whet the appetite for the main programme.
On Saturday, August 10, a seven-race programme features two Superbike and Supersport races, the Superstock event and second Supertwin and Ultralightweight/Lightweight races.