There will be a huge Irish welcome waiting for Scottish rider Stuart Easton when practice begins at the Vauxhall International North West 200 on May 14. Just two years after suffering serious injuries in a practice crash at Portstewart the Hawick rider will return to race on the North coast circuit for the Northern Ireland based Mar-Train Yamaha squad.
‘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 here and so I am coming back to try to do it.’ Stuart smiled as he visited the circuit on Tuesday.
‘I am heading into the 2013 season good to go.’ he explained. ‘And I’m as fit as I’ve ever been.’
His return to the North West start line signals the end of a remarkable recovery from the injuries he suffered in the 2011 accident for the dimunitive Hawick rider. He was slipstreaming his MSS Colchester Kawasaki team-mate Gary Mason out of Mill Road roundabout when an electrical fault caused Mason’s bike to cut out. Stuart couldn’t avoid running into the back of the slowing machine and he was fired down the road at over 140mph.
‘I can remember everything about the crash and everything that happened that day.’ Stuart recalls, before adding ‘Maybe it would be better if I didn’t.’
Medics were on the scene within seconds and Stuart was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast with a ruptured bowel and severe internal bleeding.
‘My pelvis was broken in six places and I had badly broken legs as well but it was the internal injuries that were the most worrying.’ Stuart says. ‘But luckily I managed to dodge any infections or complications.’
Stuart visited the doctors and nurses of Ward 5E at the Royal during his trip to Northern Ireland on Tuesday and he paid tribute to the medical staff who helped get him back on the road to recovery.
‘They were great.’ he said. ‘I’ve been into loads of hospitals up and down the country and sometimes they can frown upon you being brought in with something that they basically see as self-inflicted but the staff in Belfast couldn’t have been nicer. They were all North West 200 fans and they were chuffed that I was in their ward! I was really well looked after.’
Stuart spent 3 months in hospital, first in the Royal and then in Edinburgh and in total he was out of action for ten months.
Although he has now made a complete recovery, having come back to race in the British Superbike championship in 2012, he still faces the mental challenge of returning to the North West course.
‘I can honestly say that I now know what real pain is.’ he reflected. ‘It is unbelievable how much your body can take but I got through it. It was a mechanical problem that caused the crash, so I know that it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t taking liberties and that is important to me.’
‘I’ve come back to the British championship racing and I’ve stood on a BSB podium since the crash so I know that I will be fine when I come back to race at the North West this May.’
The former British Supersport champion says that his main focus will be on the 600cc races. He will be racing an almost identical R6 Yamaha to the one raced to runner-up spot in last season’s British Supersport championship by Jack Kennedy.
‘The Supersport races will be my main priority for this year.’ Stuart explained. ‘The R6 will be the bike that I will be racing all season and so the team will be familiar with it. A 600 win is top of the list for me.’
The Mar-Train team are also building a R1 Yamaha to full Superbike spec for the man who finished in third spot in the 2009 BSB championship.
‘It will be a good bike but we wont have as much track time on the R1 so I will take it as it comes.’ Stuart said. ‘But I have plenty of experience on a Superbike so we’ll see how it all works on the day.’
‘It is great to have Stuart back at the Vauxhall North West 200 fit and healthy once again.’ Event Director Mervyn Whyte, MBE, says.’ ‘Stuart will be on really competitive bikes this year and he is a brilliant addition to our rider line-up. As the winner of three Macau Grand Prix from 2008 til 2010 everyone knows how good a road racer he really is.’