After 18 years of highs and lows, British Championship trophies and morphine nightmares, Stuart Easton has announced his retirement from racing.
The 33-year-old from Hawick - affectionately known at Ratboy - will not don his little leathers again for the 2017 season, instead choosing to become more involved in the family car business, and spending more time with his wife Claire and sons Finley and Ellis.
Easton has taken part in some 260 British Championship races, winning 28, as well as taking four Macau GP wins and still holds the lap record on the Guia circuit. But there have also been some dark times, the worst of which came six years ago at the North West 200 when a collision saw him hospitalised with life-threatening injuries. But it was not that which has had an effect on Easton’s decision to call it a day as he came back strong from that incident.
“I was pretty proud to come back from the North West 200 crash in 2011. I was on a ventilator, had to have blood transfusions and other live-saving stuff. I was two-thirds dead, or not far off, and then we had some good results after that,” Easton told BSN.
“Last year when I had brake failure at Brands Hatch on the PBM bike, that made me think even more than the first big accident. Finlay, my six-year-old, was watching and he said to my wife Claire after seeing me in the air and the bike flying into the trees, ‘Is my dad going to die?’
“Sam Neate drove me through the night to make it to the birth of my second son after I was again lucky to still be there. They were a couple of close ones. I suppose it doesn’t happen to everyone but it made me think. And everyone knows that if you’re thinking about hurting yourself, it’s time to hang up the suit.
“Some riders do carry on. We are a selfish breed.I have been selfish for a long time but if that’s how you feel, then that’s it. I have had a great time racing, there have been lots of highs, lots of lows and probably when I look at it now, I have underachieved but at the same time, I had a hell of a lot of injuries but it has been a good time.”
Two British Supersport Championships have been the peak of Easton’s career and he achieved what he set out to when he began racing, but jokes now that he may have set the bar a little low.
“I think winning the second Supersport championship with Mar-Train after being badly injured was a big high. I was pleased to be able to come back and race hard for it. I even showed some good form in Superbikes too. That year was a season that I really did enjoy. It stands out a lot.
“The 2009 Superbike season with Hydrex Honda was also a very good year. Even way back in 2000, my first ever British Championship win on a 125. I was chuffed to bits at that. There were lots of highlights but also lots of times in hospital, having nightmares on morphine which is unpleasant. Those are the downsides.
“It’s been a hell of a journey. You meet a lot of people, some you would care never to meet again, but the paddock has a lot of good friends for me.
“I don’t know if doing the North West was a mistake or not. The year before I had a really great event, it’s the way the game is. The 2010 North West was great for me, I fell short of the win in the feature Superbike race but I had a great dice with Alastair Seeley and John McGuinness, got some prize money and went out that night.
“When I went to Macau for the first time, I didn’t know it was a street race. McGuinness mentioned it, I thought racing bikes in the winter was a great idea so I was up for it - it didn’t take any persuading. When I got there, I realised it was a roads circuit. But this was the pre-internet era and no-one told me. I got the shock of my life when I turned up.
“I won the Supersport race ahead of Cameron Donald and that is what got me interested in the North West. And then it went that way. I never did the TT, though.
“I never really had any massive plan, I just wanted to be British Champion, which I managed twice. I maybe set my sights a bit low, to be honest.”
So now Easton will trade his Arai and RST leathers for a sheepskin coat, flat cap and massive sovereign rings and make the transition to life after the grid.
“My dad works all day every day. He is 60-odd and wants to do a bit less. I don’t think he will ever retire and it leaves me ready to fill in that void. I’ve always been involved in it but now it makes sense for me to step in.
“I haven’t really thought about attending any races next year. I might go and watch but it would be more to catch up with friends as you can see more on the TV than at the event. I won’t be at every one I wouldn’t have thought.
“Claire is the one who is asking me if retiring is the right thing. I think she doesn’t want me under her feet all day. I don’t think she can quite believe I am going to do it.”