Scottish star Stuart Easton has been confirmed for the Vauxhall International North West 200 next month, when he will ride Paul Bird's Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki in the Superbike class.
The 30-year-old from Hawick is the reigning British Supersport champion but has stepped back up to BSB in Bird's team this year, completing his first test at Almeria alongside team-mate Shane 'Shakey' Byrne last week.
Easton, who ended the Spanish shakedown second fastest overall, will ride his BSB machine with a specially tuned engine at the North West 200 on May 17.
“The bike that I will race at the North West is the same bike that I will ride in BSB this year,” he said. “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.
“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,” he added.
“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.”
Easton has proved himself as an accomplished road racer, taking three wins at Macau and finishing as the runner-up to Alastair Seeley in the feature Superbike race at the North West 200 in 2010.
He battled all season long with Northern Ireland rider Seeley in the British Supersport Championship last year, eventually securing the title in a dramatic final round at Brands Hatch for the Mar-Train Racing team.
With Easton moving back to BSB this year, Seeley has taken over his place at Mar-Train and the pair will renew their rivalry on the roads at the North West next month.
Reflecting on last week's test at Almeria, Easton – who was caught out by the windy conditions on day one – said: “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.”
The North West 200 will be officially launched in Belfast today and a star-studded line-up for the race in May includes John McGuinness, Michael Dunlop, William Dunlop, Guy Martin, Michael Rutter, Bruce Anstey, Conor Cummins, Ryan Farquhar, Keith Amor, Josh Brookes, Ian Hutchinson, James Hillier, Martin Jessopp and Gary Johnson.