Peter Hickman returned to top form in the penultimate round of the 2018 British Superbike championship with a podium and new lap record at Assen.
The Louth rider came home from the Netherlands with a fourth and third place in the two races, after setting a new lap record of 1min 35.435secs at the circuit known as the Cathedral of Speed in race one of 1min 36.435secs.
Starting the first race from the fourth row, Hickman made a fantastic start and ploughed through the midfielders to take fourth place on the first lap. One lap later he dived under Leon Haslam to move into third, but Haslam got his own back on lap five, demoting Hickman back to fourth where he remained until lap 16 of 18 when he passed Jake Dixon.
But his progress was shortlived when a mistake let Dixon back through. Hickman remained in touch and crossed the line in fourth, just 0.38secs adrift from the final podium position.
He said: “Smiths Racing have worked so hard to get the issues we had with the bike fixed.
They have done a mega job and I’m so happy with how the she feels. A new lap record shows that!
“A small mistake from me at the end meant we just missed out on the podium, but it was great to be back where we should be.”
Starting race two from pole position, Hickman shot off the line to establish a good lead, but the course car halted his progress after a crash as the riders bunched up behind while the track was cleared.
Hickman continued to hold the lead upon the resumption through the first 10 laps, but he was overhauled by Josh Brookes on lap 11 and then by Haslam two laps later.
The Lincolnshire ace was unable to make a move on either and crossed the line for a strong third place and 16 championship points.
Hickman said: “We have been fast all weekend and seem to have sorted out all the gremlins we had.
“I did my usual in qualifying, but my race pace is always strong and we felt we could use the soft tyre for the entire 18 laps which we did in race one with no problem at all.
“I’m really happy to be in the hunt for third place in the championship and we have done ourselves a world of good this weekend.”
The solid set of results moved Hickman up into fifth place in the rider standings on 549 points, just five away from Glenn Irwin in fourth, and eight behind third-placed Brookes.
The final round of the championship is at Brands Hatch on October 13 and 14 when Hickman will have three races to gain ground on the riders ahead and secure that elusive third place.