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FHO Racing | Darren Jones Interview Part 2 - Peter Hickman & BSB title chances

We continue our interview with FHO Racing team manager Darren Jones, speaking about how Peter Hickman is preparing for the upcoming BSB season, favourite tracks, and who to beat this year.

FHO Racing Darren Jones Interview

FHO Racing team manager & crew chief Darren Jones has worked with Peter Hickman for over 10 years, and it’s fair to say he knows him pretty well. So we took the chance to get a look at how much work is going into the 2021 BSB season from the perspective of someone who probably knows him better than himself. 

If you missed it, check out part 1 of the interview where we find out about the team preparations, the new BMW M1000RR, and some WorldSBK parts that are making their way over to the team. We’ve also spoken to team owner Faye Ho, which was a brilliant insight into owning and running a new BSB team.

Diamond Races | Lap Onboard of a Honda CBR1000RR-R & a BMW S 1000 RR M Sport | Visordown.com

So Darren, from speaking with Faye she made it clear she wants great success this year. It sounds like she’s really backing you guys, you’ve got the parts, a great team, top riders, and everything you need to do well this season. Sounds like FHO Racing is going to be right up there?

Yeah, I think so. I do. I mean I’ve worked with Pete since 2010, and I’m not just his crew chief and team manager, we’re best friends. We’ve started training - something he’s had a lot of criticism in the past for, he’s not done a lot of gym work and stuff like that, as he’s always been on a bike. Always.

Bike-fit!

Yeah, on the roads, world endurance, Macau, all over the place. He’s never stopped. But because of [covid] he’s not been able to do that so much, so now he’s as fit as I’ve seen him. He’s lost like 10 kg. 

10 kilos?! He’s really going for it this season then.

Yeah, I mean he’s a big lad anyway, but we’ve had a bit of a competition - I’m down 11.5 kg and he’s down 10 kg. It’s quite funny really, it’s really pushed him on. He’s really focused, massively focused. 

So then going and bringing someone like Xavi into the team, with the experience and knowledge he’s got, is great. Some of the things Xavi’s said in testing, Pete was like ‘do you know what, he’s right’ and he knows how fast Xavi is. 

He did a good job when he was here before, I think the only two tracks he struggled at was Cadwell and Oulton Park, which are finicky circuits anyway.

Both of them love them the bike, and I think where he may have struggled last year, with the engine and braking, I think is what BMW have improved for this year. So no reason we shouldn’t be at the sharp end this year. 

How does a TT star change their mindset when looking at shorter circuit races?

Pete’s a bit unique anyway, he doesn’t take things too seriously - he doesn’t go to the TT with the attitude of ‘I need to win’. When he goes to BSB he’s on the edge of crashing all the time, when he goes to the TT you knock it off 5%, but knocking off 5% off BSB pace puts you at the front of the TT. 

Michael Dunlop and people like that won’t admit it, they don’t like to hear it, but it’s true. It’s very rare that people come to BSB from the roads and are fast. There’s not many people that have done it. Because the level of BSB is so high, but in my opinion, the key to Pete’s success is he goes to the TT with ‘I’m gonna go there, I’m gonna ride my bike around the best circuit in the world, and I’m gonna enjoy it. If I’m fast enough we’ll win, and if not I’ll come back next year and have another go’. 

When I went with him to the TT for the first time in 2014 it was just me and him in the corner of a tent, and there was no pressure. He’s probably one of the first people ever that’s gone down for his first-ever lap, and been on the back wheel down country road, whilst other people would be bricking themselves! 

I asked him, are you nervous? He said ‘what am I nervous for? I’m just riding my bike’. Personally, I think that is key. From a mindset point of view, he probably has the same, you just don’t push the same. Cause you know that on a short circuit if you tuck the front, generally you’re gonna be fine. If you tuck the front at the TT, who knows what you’re gonna hit. 

So doing well at the TT, it’s probably a more relaxed approach, really!

2021 BSB season, lot of top tracks, do you and Hicky have a favourite track of the season?

Two really. Thruxton, because Pete always does well at Thruxton - and actually, so does Xavi. It’s a fast flowing circuit, so Pete’s size isn’t a disadvantage at somewhere like that. And actually, Alex also, on the superstock bike, he loves Thruxton.  

Other than that, Cadwell. It’s Pete’s home round, it’s my home round, the workshop is 4 miles from Cadwell Park. So from that point of view, Cadwell too. 

Cadwell is a fantastic circuit, yeah.

Oh, I love all the tracks to be fair, maybe apart from Knockhill (laughs). Pete will just say any, he doesn’t really have a favourite particularly. He expects a lot of himself at Thruxton and Cadwell. 

Any love for Snetterton? My home circuit, about 15 minutes down the road!

Best thing about Snetterton is the weather, normally. Whenever at Snetterton, straight after the TT normally, the weather’s really good. Snetterton is good, we always seem to struggle there for some reason. Pete doesn’t dislike it or anything - he likes the circuit - but he seems to struggle a little bit there. But I think Xavi is quite good at Snetterton, if I remember rightly. 

Who are the riders to beat for you this season?

Well, you’re daft if you don’t look at PBM (Paul Bird Motorsport / Visiontrack Ducati) whether it be Josh Brookes or Christian Iddon. You know they’re both fast, Josh’s results will speak for themselves - so sure Josh is one to beat. I certainly wouldn’t discount Christian. And Tommy (Bridewell), to be fair, the Ducatis really are the ones to beat. 

But they all are. You know the field. The field is bloody strong, you can’t overlook anyone really. But our aim is to try and take it to Ducati really. 

We are realistic, as much as we want to go out and dominate, we are realistic. My personal goals are podiums, we need to get podiums this year, of course, we want to win the championship, but if we get to the podiums and we’re there or thereabouts in year 1, then in year 2 that’s when we really want to be going for the championship if we don’t this year. 

Sights are set high, but realistically high. You’ve got the parts, you’ve got the team, get out there and win some races - is that the attitude?

You’re naive if you think you sit here now and say ‘yeah we’ll go win the championship this year’. But of course that’s the goal, as it is for everybody. Realistically I’m confident we’ll get some podiums this year.

Any other bits you’d like to add?

Well, we want to get out there with the fans really. We’re quite approachable - social media especially. Faye is approachable, happy and smiley - don’t get me wrong things may change if she doesn’t get the results, but she’s realistic! 

Make sure you keep an eye out for FHO Racing on the BSB grid this year, they're certainly ones to watch.