At the same time as Peter Hickman was breaking through as an Isle of Man TT winner and record holder earlier this year, he was also setting in motion plans for his first New Zealand racing campaign.

Hickman, 31, from Burton-upon-Trent, is the international star of this year's Suzuki Series that makes three stops at New Zealand tracks during December.

It's a coup for the Kiwi series to headline the fastest road racer in the world as it builds towards its own road race finale on the streets of Whanganui.

Hickman's 16min 42.778secs final lap chasing down Dean Harrison in the 2018 Senior TT averaged 135.452mph, shattering all records for the historic 37.75-mile TT course. And it's faster than any other race lap of any closed road circuit.

Advertisement

The visit to New Zealand was initiated during the 2018 TT week by Tauranga's Gavin Sokolich, the international manager of Carl Cox Motorsport.

''It came about after meeting Gavin at the TT earlier this year,'' says Hickman who was visiting Tauranga between the Taupo and Manfeild rounds of the Suzuki Series.

''I was wandering along the paddock heading off to my garage and Gavin stopped me and said 'My name's Gav and I work with Carl Cox. Would you be interested in coming to New Zealand and doing the Suzuki Series?'

''Obviously I said yes. But time is precious and it's hard to work out when I can actually do something.

''Over the next couple of months we worked out what I could do and as it turns out we've managed to do the whole series.

''I didn't need any convincing whatsoever, I just needed to plan,'' says Hickman.

''So far so good. I've not even been here a week yet but I'm really enjoying myself.''

Hickman's trip to New Zealand is a further phase of New Zealand involvement for British international record producer/DJ and hardcore motorsport enthusiast Carl Cox. His team supplies bikes and sponsors riders throughout the world and New Zealanders are prominent among the solo and sidecar racers competing under the Carl Cox Motorsport banner.

Even before he climbed aboard the BMW S1000RR at Taupo's Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park last weekend, Hickman was in a hurry.

"We only landed on Friday morning in Auckland so I missed Friday practice. I went out on Saturday for four 20-minute sessions so I didn't have a massive amount of time to learn the circuit.

''It's quite a technical circuit and good fun. We qualified on the front row — I was about 0.3secs off the lap record so that was a good start.

''I got away really good in race one and was sitting behind the front two but unfortunately an over-exuberant Honda hit me in the back. Damon (Rees) got a little excited on the brakes into turn 11 and we had coming together and we both went into the gravel.

''He ended up falling off and I managed to stay on. By the time I came back I was dead last and I got back up to 14th before the race was red-flagged for oil on the track.

''Race two I didn't get a good start and I was kind of stuck in fifth place and couldn't get past. We learned a bit and we're working on what we need to beat the others.''

Peter Hickman in action during the opening round of the Suzuki Series at Taupo last weekend. Photo / Colin Smith
Peter Hickman in action during the opening round of the Suzuki Series at Taupo last weekend. Photo / Colin Smith

The Suzuki Series moves to its second round at Manfeild this Sunday.

''The competition here is pretty good. The front six riders are pretty fast,'' says Hickman.

Racing in New Zealand and a foray to the Macau Grand Prix in November are additional to Hickman's two major racing commitments — the British SuperBike Championship and the major road races such as the TT, Northwest 200 and Ulster TT where he has also posted wins in 2018.

He's a relatively new rider on the ''roads'' and has surged to prominence since making his TT debut in 2014, scoring his first podiums in 2017 and winning the SuperStock 1000 and Senior TT this year setting new race and lap records.

''Most people kind of forget that this year was only my fifth year at the TT which is still quite new really.''

He puts his rapid progression and record-breaking pace down intense preparation ahead of TT debut.

''What put me in the best stead was I did so much homework for it that first year.

''I'd been riding 1000cc bikes for 10 years before I came to the TT with eight years in the British SuperBike Championship. The bike wasn't the issue, it was all about the circuit.

''It's all about knowledge. It's [the TT circuit] 60km long so what I did was lots and lots of car laps. I also did a couple of laps on a bike but it didn't really work with the roads open.

''I did everything I could to learn it as much as possible.

''I did 70 car laps. It's an hour a lap in a car to go around the Isle of Man with open roads. You're looking at 70 hours of driving round and round. Along with playing the PlayStation game and watching the onboard videos, it all just sets into your head.

''I was watching laps that were 128mph laps and they were pretty fast but they weren't ridiculously fast.''

Peter Hickman celebrates winning the Superstock TT race on the Isle of Man earlier this year. Photo / Stephen Davison
Peter Hickman celebrates winning the Superstock TT race on the Isle of Man earlier this year. Photo / Stephen Davison

He made an immediate impression on his Isle of Man debut in 2014.

''My first year I did 129mph. I was 18th fastest rider ever after year one and that was on a Super Stock bike.''

His 2014 lap still stands as the fastest by a newcomer at the TT.

''Year two I nearly had a podium which not many people do. Year three I was in a podium position in the Senior and the bike expired.

''So I was close straight away and it was all because of the groundwork I put in at the start.''

In spite of the hours of TT preparation and the success it has brought, Hickman says racing on the Isle of Man isn't his first priority.

''I always focus mainly on British SuperBike. The road racing just fits in wherever it fits in. I concentrate on BSB and I go road racing for a bit of fun.''

He has a best finish of fourth in the super-competitive BSB in 2017.

''I was fifth this year but actually closer to finishing third — I was only 11 points off finishing third.

''It's a really competitive series. We were the top BMW team the last two years running and beat the official team both years.

''The Smiths Racing Team put a really good bike out and I've got a good team around me and that makes all the difference.''

But it's the Isle of Man TT that has given Hickman the greatest success and highest profile. He says part of the appeal of the TT is that there is no middle ground – people either love or loathe the historic, unique and deadly road race.

''It's the oldest race in the world, it been going for 113 years now.

''Everything about it is really special. The risk is one factor, the speed is another. It's what your are actually doing — you're nearly riding around a whole island and you're doing it in, well 16min 42s now after this year.

''On that last lap, even though I was trying to win a race and it was all really close and you are concentrating loads, I was thinking to myself going over the mountain on the last lap ''this is the last time I'm going to do this for another 12 months.

''It's a long time to wait again. And that's also what makes all the road races so special. They only happen once a year.

''It's the only time you can do it. You can't practice or test there. It's just that time and you have to get it right otherwise you have to wait a whole year to go back again.''

That's the familiar scenario Hickman will face when he lies up on the streets of Whanganui later this month.

The annual Boxing Day street race also boasts history – it was first staged in 1951 and has missed just two years since – and riders either perform on the day or put their hopes on hold for another year.