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Racer Stuart Easton set for NW200 return

Staff nurses Michelle Bunting,Grainee McKenna, Leonila Agonia and Lance Suribas and Ward Sister Margaret Robinson who treated road racer Stuart Easton after his big crash at the North West 200 in 2013, chat with him during his visit to ward where he was treated in the Royal Victoria Hospital

Staff nurses Michelle Bunting,Grainee McKenna, Leonila Agonia and Lance Suribas and Ward Sister Margaret Robinson who treated road racer Stuart Easton after his big crash at the North West 200 in 2013, chat with him during his visit to ward where he was treated in the Royal Victoria Hospital

 

TWO years after an horrific crash that nearly killed him, leading Scottish motorcycle racer Stuart Easton is preparing to face his demons at the North West 200 road races in May.

TWO years after an horrific crash that nearly killed him, leading Scottish motorcycle racer Stuart Easton is preparing to face his demons at the North West 200 road races in May.

Easton, from Hawick, suffered a catalogue of serious injuries – including a shattered pelvis, a ruptured bowel, two broken legs and internal bleeding – as a result of the 140mph smash in 2011, which happened during practice on the fast stretch of track from Mill Road Roundabout to Station Corner on the 8.9-mile public roads circuit.

The 29-year-old ran into the back of his MSS Kawasaki team-mate Gary Mason’s machine, which slowed suddenly due to a suspected electrical fault.

Mason escaped unscathed but Easton was catapulted into the air, landing heavily on the tarmac and miraculously avoided colliding with numerous roadside hazards, including brick walls, lampposts and telegraph poles – a fate that would have had catastrophic consequences.

Yesterday, he returned to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he was treated for five weeks in the aftermath of his life-threatening crash, to meet the doctors and nurses in Ward 5E who helped him on the long path to recovery.

Stuart spent a total of three months in hospital, transferring from Belfast to Edinburgh to continue his recuperation. But despite the suffering he endured, the unassuming Scot will pull on his helmet once more in pursuit of road racing glory on the North Coast in less than three months’ time.

“I can honestly say that I now know what real pain is. It is unbelievable how much your body can take but I got through it,” said Easton, who will ride for Northern Ireland team Mar-Train Racing in the British Supersport Championship in England this year.

“I’ve come back to British championship racing and I’ve stood on the British Superbike podium since the crash, so I know that I will be fine when I come back to race at the North West this May.”

Prior to his accident two years ago, Easton finished as the runner-up in the main Superbike event at the North West 200 in 2010, behind event favourite Alastair Seeley from Carrickfergus.

The former British Supersport champion narrowly missed out on a coveted victory after Seeley squeezed past on the final lap of the race and Easton feels he has unfinished business to take care of.

“I had a second place at the North West in 2010, the year before the crash, so there’s still a box to be ticked and so I am coming back to try to do it,” added Easton, who also visited the scene of his accident in Portstewart yesterday.

“I am heading into the 2013 season good to go and I’m as fit as I’ve ever been.”

Only four months after he escaped with his life in 2011, Easton was already contemplating making a return to the famous race, reflecting an attitude that typifies the resilience and determination of road racers who stare death in the face and come back to risk it all again.

In an interview with the News Letter at the time, he said: “The crash was one of those things – it wasn’t my fault.

“It wasn’t like I was trying too hard or anything like that, it was a machine failure in front of me and I was unlucky to clip the back of Gary’s machine and that was that really.

“I think overall I was lucky to get away with it and that’s the main thing. I have my own personal goals that I set myself and I like racing at the North West and at Macau.”

He also paid tribute to the level of care he received at the Royal Victoria in Belfast and acknowledged the support of the Northern Ireland fans following the crash.

“I had so much support in Northern Ireland when I was in hospital with all the cards and letters from people,” he said.

“I was never short of visitors and there were letters from all over Northern Ireland and that really spurred me on.”

Easton is guaranteed a warm welcome on his return to the paddock in the Spring having gained an army of admirers in the wake of his courageous battle back to fitness.

In 2010 he grabbed the headlines with a then-record NW200 top-speed of 204mph on the Swan Honda machine, which was bettered last year by Martin Jessopp from Yeovil, who topped 208mph.

Jessopp has now issued a “come and get me” plea to the NW200 organisers for 2013.

 

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