FHO Racing BMW enjoyed two strong days of qualifying at the International North West 200 road races this week as Peter Hickman qualified in second and fourth places respectively on the BMW M 1000 RR for the Superbike and Superstock races.
Team-mate Brian McCormack, making his return to the event for the first time in a decade, also had a productive time around the high speed 8.9-mile circuit with the 16th quickest time in the Superbike class.
As the event roared into action for the first time since 2019 on Tuesday, the entire field eased its way back into the challenges posed while a couple of rain showers during the day also interrupted proceedings.
But it was a solid day for both riders and with better conditions on Thursday, the team-mates made significant strides forward. Although the winds remained prominent, Hickman’s Superbike lap of 4’22.447s was only two tenths of a second outside the existing lap record, putting him in second on the grid and in the middle of the front row for Saturday’s two races and fourth in the Superstock class.
McCormack continued to make progress in the final sessions, ending up 16th overall in Superbike and 21st in Superstock after a few spots of rain halted his charge.
However, the weather took a turn for the worse as rain hit just before Thursday evening’s three races and temperatures plummeted. Both Hickman and McCormack headed out for the six-lap Superstock race but like many others decided to retire early due to worsening conditions.
“The week hasn’t been without problems as we’ve had a few niggling little issues with the bikes – to be expected at this stage – but we’ve gradually ironed them out and have been pretty fast, perhaps faster than I thought. To set my fastest ever lap around here in the second session and be so close to the outright lap record so early on in proceedings was very pleasing.
“The bike felt good in the second session whilst the few spots of rain meant I didn’t get a proper go on the Superstock bike so I’m more than happy with fourth and the second row. We went out in the wet race and made a change after the warm up lap but it didn’t make much difference and the risk of staying out was greater than the potential reward.”
“Tuesday’s first session was a bit of an eye-opener especially as I’m now on the fastest bike I’ve ever ridden! That combined with it being my first time here for ten years and our first road race in three years meant it took a while for the brain to re-adjust to the speeds. It was also very windy, and the bike set up wasn’t quite right initially, but we soon got everything dialled in which made me feel a lot more comfortable.
“I surprised myself a bit with how strong my lap times were, and we weren’t far off the quick boys so it’s a real shame the weather turned the way it did. I normally don’t mind those conditions but there wasn’t a lot of grip and with Saturday’s forecast being a lot more favourable, we took the sensible decision and pulled in.”
Faye Ho, Team Principal:
“First of all, it’s great to be back at the International North West 200 and equally great to see so many fans and so many enthusiastic people! Both riders encountered a few little niggles at the beginning of qualifying, but the team worked well to eliminate them and we’re more than pleased with the progress both Peter and Brian made. They and the team continually moved forward with bike set up and this could be seen in the final qualifying positions; for Peter to be on lap record pace so early in proceedings was very positive.”
“The way the weather changed on Thursday evening was a real eye-opener and for someone more used to sunnier climates, it really was freezing! There was more to lose than there was to gain in the Superstock race, and the riders made the sensible decision to pull in. Saturday’s weather looks a lot more promising and we’re confident of a positive day’s racing with good results from both riders.”