By Christian Tiburtius

Stuart Easton has made a near perfect return to the British Supersport Championship so far this season, winning three out of the opening four races.

This exclusive interview was conducted between the back-to-back Brands Hatch and Thruxton rounds...

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Why do you race?

Stuart Easton:
It's not an easy question to answer - about two years ago I nearly died racing, but despite that I've never really thought why.

I don't think there's one big reason. I always want to come back to racing, but as bike racers we just want to prove ourselves. It's something a little strange in that way.

Also the competitive urge is part of it. I don't ride on the road, but I do ride motocross and I've got a massive liking for motorbikes, full stop. You get the bug and it gets under your skin a bit.

Things that keep me going include reaching goals that I set for myself whether that be winning a race, championship or set a lap time. That's rewarding and gives you a sense of achievement.

My main dislike has to be crashing and injuries, though I have to say that I don't focus too much on those kind of aspects.
Talking about things you dislike, coming back from your accident at the NW200 must have been hard, did you think of retiring?

Stuart Easton:
If I'm honest, I did for the first couple of weeks I was in hospital. I considered packing it in but I always joke now that that was just the drugs talking. After the first two weeks though, when I became stable, I pretty quickly started planning my comeback. There wasn't much thought about retiring once I became fully conscious, that's for sure.

My wife knew deep down that I would never retire anyway and she fully expected that I would continue racing if I could. Also at a basic level, I feel grateful that I was able to come back, I had that many injuries that it could have been career ending, so I feel blessed and want to make the most of it.

I had really good support in hospital and you do find out who your friends are in a situation like that. I got support from all sorts of people. I'm now fully fit but I won't be entering any triathlons.

I'm more that fit enough to win a bike race though, that's for sure. I never really struggle with fitness anyway. I did have problems coming back straight after the crash and last season was pretty tough. This season having had another winter off to prepare, I'm much more ready for it and I'm ready to do the job.
Did it affect your confidence, does it still hang around in the back of your mind?

Stuart Easton:
Not really, I just take it as it comes. Confidence depends more on the circumstances you're in and the bike you're on. This year I'm on the Mar-Train 600 Yamaha and I've won the first race of the season so confidence is not an issue
Why do you do the road racing?

Stuart Easton:

I only do two really, the NW200 and the Macau GP. I don't want there to be any more than that because I don't want to lose focus on our number one priority which is the British Supersport championship. A couple of road races on top of that is a full enough calendar.

I only do those two and not the TT, because for the TT the learning curve is huge. In the NW200 and Macau GP you can go there and get the job done because you can learn the place relatively quickly. In the TT though, for your first year you're going to be wobbling around at the back. You've got to put everything into it and it has to be the pinnacle of your year to be successful at the TT.

The Macau GP is a pretty unique event in that it's fully lined with barriers. Before I'd never even heard of the place and I went to do it without really knowing what I was letting myself in for. As it turned out I really enjoyed it. I've won that race three times so we're hoping to go back there for a blast, but it's not 100% certain we'll go there, Mar-Train have never been there before.
Was going back to the NW200 this year your idea or the team's?

Stuart Easton:
It had to be mine really. The team are local to the NW and it's a big race for them, but I have to be 100% up for it, which I am. It was me who first brought up doing it and luckily the team were really pleased with that. I think I've got a good chance on the 600 at least.
What is your perspective on last season in BSB?

Stuart Easton:
My main problem was my injuries. It was pretty soon going back and I got injured mid-season so that meant that the results were patchy overall.

Also our crew chief left the team after a couple of races and he wasn't replaced. I didn't have a crew chief as such for the rest of the season. It's fair to say that the team pulled together and there was help there, but there was no one person there I could have called my crew chief.

Now I've got Andy Jamison as my crew chief at Mar-Train. He's worked with the R6 for many years now and has them well covered and what he doesn't know about the R6 is probably not worth knowing. That gives me great confidence. He's had the bike set up with a great base setting wherever we ride and up to now I've never disagreed with what he's given me. I've got a good team to work with.

I still get on with the PBM team though. I've known them for a long, long time and they've put some excellent bikes under me. Also, let's not forget that he [Paul Bird] gave me the chance to make my come back in the first place. I'm still very grateful to the PBM team.
Isn't Paul Bird a personal sponsor of yours?

Stuart Easton:
He was last season, but not this.
Tell us about the Mar-Train team

Stuart Easton:
Before I even went over to Northern Ireland, the team had proved themselves to me having come second in the championship with Jack Kennedy. It was obvious that they had fast, well developed bikes. So I wasn't really concerned about the team or the bike.

Their commitment to me was immediately very clear and they were straight up for it so I returned the commitment and signed almost immediately. We believed in each other straight away.

I had also spoken to a few Superbike teams, but there was nothing that would have been exciting for me though.

Mar-Train are friendly and easy going with a relaxed atmosphere and they have a very clear goal. Also Superbikes have been mentioned for the future, but the 600s are what we're focused on now.

I'm confident there'll be fireworks this season because Mar-Train is just one of the teams who can win. Those green bikes have been pretty wild up to now and there is nobody in the BSS championship that you could fully trust behind you. It's going to be good
How did you feel on the grid for round one at Brands?

Stuart Easton:
I've had 5 years on Superbikes, so coming back to 600s was a big change. We had a few days testing and then the weather stopped us and having had 5 years on the big bikes I felt like I could have done with a bit more.

Also, at Brands, Friday was pretty much a write-off so going into the race I felt not 100% ready to get stuck in. I still managed to win though, so that gave me a positive boost. All the other guys have had a lot of hours on 600s so to come away with a win was confidence inspiring.

I felt a lot more experienced then than when I won the Supersport title in 2003. I still get nervous on the grid. I think that some nerves is probably a good thing though. I now know more what you need to do than I did then and there's probably it bit more enjoyment because of that.

The second race didn't go according to plan, I made a little mistake hitting the kerb with the engine casing and down I went. It was a schoolboy error, but sometimes things like that happen and we'll put it behind us. I was fine though. I knew the reason for the crash, and that helps. If you start crashing and not knowing why, it can be a bit of a problem.

I was pretty glad to get away from Brands to be honest because it produces some pretty crazy races. I know that the 600s are going to be pretty tight and there'll be a lot of close races, but Brands Indy is one of the worst places for those kinds of races.

Also there are a couple of lads in the 600 class who never really use any race craft at all, just banging and barging, so it's great to get the first race of the year out of the way. When we get onto the bigger tracks it should be a lot more open.
You looked particularly happy after the first race, were you relieved?

Stuart Easton:
Well, I knew I could do it, but I suppose there is always that tiny bit of doubt until you actually win one. It settled me and confirmed what we thought we knew anyway.
Tell us a little about the Yamaha, how will it go at other circuits?

Stuart Easton:
I'm not too sure, because I've not ridden the bike at most of the circuits. I'm pretty sure there'll be close racing wherever we go though.

The chassis is really good and it's a bike I felt comfortable on straight away. I think it makes 140 something brake horsepower and power wise will be close to a WSS bike. The big difference between the WSS and BSS bike is that our bike uses the Motec control ECU.

Now racing bikes have probably got less electronics than road bikes, with the control ECU there's no help with anything. There's no launch control, traction control or anti-wheelie and I've got to say that I think that's good. It puts the rider in control and it cuts out one area where there could be a number of problems. With the control ECU, there are less issues and it's just easier.
Was it good coming back to the Supersport class after racing Superbikes for so long?

Stuart Easton:
I enjoy them both in different ways. People assume that the 600s are easier to ride, I don't think they are though because you really have to chase them round to get every ounce out of them so they're hard to get the most out of. To be on the lap record you have to be working very hard. Superbikes are a bit more physical in a different way, but there are times when you can let the power do the work.

They're both hard work in their different ways, luckily I never have problems getting tired or out of breath though.
Do you find you have to do more training now?

Stuart Easton:
No, not really, I do enough. I do maybe 1 1/2 hours if I'm training on that day.

On circuit racing, you don't get an out of breath tiredness. You can do all the cardio training you want, it's bike fitness you have to develop. I think motocross is the way to train, there just no substitute for being on the bike.

John McGuinness is probably the best example for that, he doesn't train himself to death, but he nearly won the Superstock race and could probably ride the bike all day and night. He's got great bike fitness. If he had to run 2 miles though, he might struggle!
Apparently the Mar-Train team is 'factory supported', what does that mean?

Stuart Easton:
That we're the main Supersport team for Yamaha. We're supported by Yamaha UK.
Sam Lowes and Jack Kennedy have shown how well BSS riders can do internationally, where do you see your future?

Stuart Easton:
WSS would be a good place to be, WSS, BSS BSB, whatever, I just want to be on a competitive bike like I am now and win races. Wherever that leads, who knows?
You come over as calm, quiet and respectful, how does that fit in with racing bikes?

Stuart Easton:
Everybody's got aggression in them and I guess that when you ride bikes, that's when it comes out. Also there's a strong desire to race, and above all, win. That gives you the anger that you need as a bike racer.

At the same time, I'm at my best when I'm calm, if you become flustered and over aggressive the race won't come to you. Some riders need to ride aggressively to go fast but for me it comes more naturally when everything's under control. It's really hard to explain, racing can be a kind of release.
What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as a rider?

Stuart Easton:
Strengths I would say consistency and being smooth so I can conserve tyres better. Weakness? well, I'm not going to answer that! You'll have to talk to other riders.
Do you ever dangle a leg when braking?

Stuart Easton:
No, I've never felt the need. The GP guys do it so I guess it does something...
Lastly, what is this 'Rat Boy' thing?

Stuart Easton:
It came from Stuart Bland, one of the PBM guys. The original 'Rat Boy' was Carl Ramsey and because he was Scottish and I'm Scottish he said I was another 'Rat Boy' and it just stuck from there. The worst thing is that now even Carl Ramsey calls me 'Rat Boy'. There are worse things to be called though!
Thanks a lot Stuart, ride safe and if you win the title, you'll give us the first interview right?

Stuart Easton:
Definitely, that'd be grand.