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Easton on a BSB mission at Knockhill

Stuart Easton is a quiet man.

He's not one for shouting or bawling or bouts of hyperbole. He doesn't need to be: he survived a near-fatal crash in 2011 at the North West 200 and a subsequent medically-induced coma to fight his way back to fitness and snatch a fiercely-contested British Supersport crown last year.

He has nothing to prove to anyone. So when he says he's going to use the Knockhill round of the MCE British Superbike Championship to kick-start his title challenge, it's no idle chatter. The quietly-spoken Borderer, who rides for Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki, is determined to bounce back at his home race after enduring a torrid round three at Snetterton, in Norfolk, which saw him retire in Race One on the first lap.

He says: "The first two rounds were reasonable-to-good, which left us fourth in the points, and we were happy enough with that. Round 3 was a disaster. I had lack of pace through practice and qualifying then in Race One we had a mechanical when a radiator hose clip broke. That put me on the back of the grid for Race Two. I came through from 26th to 13th and that was that. I ended up with three points [total of a possible 50] for the whole weekend."

Easton, who rides a Kawasaki ZX-10, refuses to blame anyone but himself for the slide which has taken him down to seventh place. "Aside from the mechanicals, the rest of the weekend was down to me," he says. "It was my doing that it was hopeless."

Now he plans to do something he's - amazingly - never managed to do at the 1.3mile Fife circuit: win a race. He says: "I've finished on every bike I've ridden from a 125 right through to superbike in second place in every class but I've never won."

The Hawick flyweight, who stands under 5ft 7inches tall, is confident that he can change that unwelcome record on the last Sunday of June. "I go well at Knockhill. It's my home race, the only one I get with a home crowd to cheer me on. I'm the only Scottish rider on the grid in Superbikes so I always look forward to it. Hopefully we'll have a good strong points haul and I'll spray champagne for the first time this year.'

He describes Knockhill, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, as a demanding circuit. "You never get a rest. I like it. You can get a bit of a flow going and get stuck in and peel the laps off. If your bike is working well and you're confident, you can go pretty quick straight away and get in the groove."

British Superbikes is continuing with what it calls the "revolutionary" points concept introduced in 2010. After nine races, the top six riders join the Showdown with 500 points, plus additional points for each podium position they obtained up to that point, which means that only they can fight it out for the title.

Easton is clear on his mission but is realistic about how hard it will be to be to make the Showdown. "I'm seventh, so I've dropped back but I'm only four points off fifth. It is really tough. The top six cut is hard. Kiyonari, [Japanese three times BSB champion], is outside the cut at the minute, John Hopkins, [ex-MotoGP rider] too. There's a lot of big names fighting for the top six but with the package we've got, and with Snetterton out the way, we're more than capable of being in the top six."

Easton, who also won the supersport title in 2002, is team-mate to the series leader Shane 'Shakey' Byrne. He says: "Shakey is confident, he's been on that package, that bike, with the team and his crew, for three years. He's very comfortable and pretty settled, he turns up at each circuit and it's time to go again.

"I've not got the data from previous years. Coming from 600s back to superbike I've got to learn the superbike at each circuit again. That's a little hard, but it's not really much of an excuse. We've just got try to find the pace."

Easton acknowledges that re-adapting to the bigger, heavier superbikes is a process that takes time. "In terms of riding style there's a big, big difference. The 600s are probably 140 horsepower in comparison to 210 for superbikes, so the power difference is huge, which means you have to ride a lot differently. Corner speed is a lot higher in supersport. They seem to handle a lot better because they've got less power so that maybe suits a smaller guy like me.

"Supersport is ever so slightly underrated but it's still a really tough championship but superbikes is where it's at. It's the premiership."

WIN TICKETS

We're giving away 10 pairs of weekend tickets worth £100 a pair for MCE Insurance British Superbikes at Knockhill between June 27 and June 29. To be in with a chance of enjoying the races all you have to do is correctly answer the following question:

Question: Which anniversary is Knockhill celebrating this year?

Email your answer, and your name, address, and phone number to garry.scott@heraldandtimes.co.uk or send a postcard to Garry Scott, Herald Bikes, 200 Renfield Street, Glasgow, G2 3QB.

Closing date is Monday June 30 at 11am. See www.knockhill.com for more info.

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