Scottish braveheart Stuart Easton will line-up as one of the major challengers for Superbike glory at this year’s Vauxhall International North West 200.
The affable Hawick rider has been confirmed for the first big international head-to-head of 2014 on the north coast, where he will ride Paul Bird’s Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki ZX-10R.
Reigning British Supersport champion Easton has stepped up to the BSB class this year following a highly successful collaboration in 2013 with Mar-Train Racing team, and renews his rivalry with Carrick rider Alastair Seeley at the North West, who was locked in a season-long duel with Easton for the Supersport title last year.
“The bike that I will race at the North West is the same bike that I will ride in BSB this year,” said Easton, who tested the ZX-10R for the first time at Almeria in Spain last week.
“It is a great bit of kit and I feel comfortable on it. I just need to get enough practice and I will be ready to go.”
The PBM team will build a specially tuned motor for Easton’s North West 200 bid, prepared for the unique demands of the 8.9-mile Triangle circuit’s incredible 200mph straights.
“Tuning an engine for the North West is a bit of a black art but I know that PBM will have it covered and that the team’s engine builder, Frank Wrathall, will give me a motor that will be up to the job,” added Easton, who previously held the outright top speed record of 204mph set on the Swan Honda in 2010.
“The team have won North Wests, TTs and world championship races and working with that experience makes my job so much easier. I just have to turn up and race.
“If we get the bike set up good and I can get a couple of good results in the opening BSB races I want to be challenging for a win at the North West.”
A three-time winner of the Macau Grand Prix, Easton has demonstrated his flair for the roads and went close to clinching the honours in the main NW200 Superbike race four years ago, when he led on the final lap until Ulsterman Seeley squeezed through at Church Corner and went on to take the chequered flag.
Mar-Train Racing’s Seeley will also rely on Kawasaki machinery in the premier class at the North West and the pair are set to lock horns once again after serving up a British title thriller last season.
Easton, who suffered a catalogue of awful injuries after a serious crash at the north coast meeting in 2011, ended last week’s British Superbike test at Almeria in second place overall behind team-mate Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne.
He bounced back after a spill in windy conditions on day one, quickly getting to grips with the ZX-10R after a year on the 600cc Mar-Train Yamaha.
“There was a lot of damage to the bike and it wasn’t the way I had planned things for the first ride on the new bike on day one, but we regrouped and by the final day I was just 0.8 seconds off Shakey’s best time,” Easton said.
Event Director, Mervyn Whyte MBE, added: “Stuart Easton is a class act as his British Supersport title success highlights. The North West 200 will be his only domestic international road racing appearance in 2014 and it’s a big coup to have a rider of Stuart’s ability on a bike that has a BSB championship-winning pedigree.”
The 2014 Vauxhall International North West 200 will be officially launched at Titanic Belfast on Monday morning.