Back at the beginning of May, Stuart Easton signalled his title credentials with a superb double podium finish at Oulton Park – and whilst those chances have since been shot apart by his North West 200 accident, the Scot's MSS Colchester Kawasaki team-mate Gary Mason and stand-in Alex Lowes are hopeful of doing him proud in his absence as the 2011 British Superbike Championship returns to the challenging north-west track this weekend.
Easton's second and third places in the second meeting on the 2011 BSB calendar represented the MSS outfit's best-ever race weekend and underlined the speed of the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R around the sinuous Cheshire circuit.
The 27-year-old subsequently sustained two broken femurs, a broken coccyx, a shattered pelvis in five separate places, a ruptured bowel, broken fingers and a deep cut to his arm when he collided with Mason at Station Corner during North West 200 practice on 19 May – and he is likely to be out-of-action for at least a year.
As the new effective team leader, Mason is eager to lift spirits with a strong performance at Oulton, having shown well at both Croft and Knockhill – with a maiden BSB podium finish in Yorkshire and fourth and sixth places in Scotland – only to struggle last time out at Snetterton, where the former British Superbike Cup Champion failed to make the top ten in either race.
“This was the meeting earlier in the year where we really started to believe in the bike,” the 32-year-old affirmed. “Stuart was in mega form, so we know the bike can go well round there. Snetterton didn't go as it should have done, but we have another chance here. I always try and stay positive, and I know the results can come.”
Lowes, for his part, is champing at the bit to concretise his own potential, with his promise having been marred by crashes in his three outings for MSS Colchester Kawasaki thus far. He heads to Oulton buoyed by a point-scoring effort as a replacement for the injured Jonathan Rea at Castrol Honda in the World Superbike Championship at Brno last weekend.
“I think I learnt quite a bit at the WSBK round, and hopefully that can help me in BSB,” he opined. “I remember watching how well the bike worked with Stuey at Oulton and I love the track, so hopefully I can get a good result for Kawasaki up north!”
“I've been looking forward to Oulton Park, because we know how well the bike worked there only a couple of months ago so we have no excuses,” summarised team owner Nick Morgan. “Gary and Alex have the ability combined with the new bike to run right up the front as they both have at times; we just need the consistency and some top six results.”