Peter Hickman and Josh Brookes' preparations for the 2023 Isle of Man TT have been dealt a blow after the FHO Racing BMW team walked out of the event over a disagreement over a breach of regulation ruling.
The team was disqualified from the Superstock class due to its BMW M 1000 RR being fitted with wheels made using carbon, a material prohibited by NW200 regulations.
However, by changing the carbon wheels for a set constructed from different materials, it would therefore no longer be considered a 'stock-spec' motorcycle, which would then also flout the regulations.
With the team stuck in a bizarre Catch-22 and finding organisers unwilling to offer dispensation in the circumstances, FHO Racing thus chose to pull its two entries from the blue riband Superbike races too in protest.
In a statement issued on Thursday evening, FHO Racing say it was decided to withdraw from the event in protest at organisers for not having a solution to its opaque regulation framework.
"Having taking this issue out with the fonaCAB and Nicholl Oils North West 200 organisers, there is no confidence that the FHO Racing riders could take part in a race with the obvious dangers, and risks that road racing prevents and then the performance protested or disqualified on a technicality that is not adequately explained.
"The FHO Racing team have checked the 2023 technical regulations against those of 2022 and the regulations remain the same, where the team raced the carbon homologated wheels in both Superstock races, as well as the event in 2019.
"The effort commitment and logistics required to compete in the North West 200 are significant and this lack of confidence in the organisation renders the team’s participation in this year’s event impossible.
"The FHO Racing team would like to sincerely apologise to all its sponsors and fans, and the team are now looking forward to getting back out on the roads in a few weeks time at the Isle of Man TT Races.
The NW200 event considered is a crucial warm-up for riders competing in the TT festival - which runs from June 3 to June 10.
Likely to stutter the momentum of Hickman, who is this current era's most dominant force on the Mountain Course, it will also rob Brookes of crucial track time on the roads before he makes his TT comeback this year.