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Wheel Stories: On the Beattie track

By Michael Stahl, 15 Dec 2018 Features

Wheel Stories: On the Beattie track

How a legend on two wheels found gold in the Outback

THE BIRDSVILLE Hotel, the Gibb River Road … and Daz’s truck. While former grand prix motorcycle racer Daryl Beattie would be the last to want iconic status, the purpose-built IVECO Eurocargo 4x4 that supports his motorcycle tours has become a celebrated sight in the outback.

“Oh, it’s great,” Beattie, 47, says. “Nomads pull over and jump out on the highway and wave their arms and stop us for photos; it’s extraordinary.”

The IVECO is the mother ship for Daryl Beattie Adventures, conducted on either adventure-touring Honda CRF1000L Africa Twins or more hard-core CRF450L enduro bikes, which span the Kimberley, the Red Centre, the Simpson Desert, Cape York and Tasmania.

Read next: IVECO Daily 4x4 range crosses the Simpson Desert

For Beattie, it’s a (welcome) world away from the 500cc world championship circus in which he was a key participant in the mid-1990s. Beattie finished the 1995 world championship second only to the steamrollering fellow Queenslander, Mick Doohan.

Born in Charleville, Queensland, before moving to Brisbane, young Daryl’s motorcycle career had a bizarre beginning when he won a Suzuki RM50 on the Agro cartoon show.

“I was going off to school and I asked my mum, ‘Can you put an entry in for this competition?’ You had to guess the weight of the bike, so I looked up in the phone book, rang Darryl Reeks Suzuki … The guy there said ‘56 kilos’. A month or so later, we got a letter from Channel 7 saying I can come on the show and collect my minibike.”

Daryl took to dirt bikes like a duck to water. “I don’t think I did anything special, other than that my mum and dad had the foresight to realise that you needed to ride on all kinds of loose surfaces and be adaptable.”

Beattie did his first road race on his 16th birthday in 1986. Within two years he was earmarked by Honda, with local 250cc GP success being followed by a summoning to Japan and a works 250cc bike.

Video: Iveco Daily 4x4 review

“Yeah, the opportunity arrived and it was phenomenal. For the first time ever, I had an international flight, went to Suzuka Circuit … McLaren and Senna were there, testing.”

Beattie finished a sensational third on his 500cc debut in 1992 and stepped into Wayne Gardner’s vacated Honda seat for 1993 as Doohan’s teammate. He finished third in that year’s championship. An ill-starred 1994 season with Yamaha included losing five toes in a crash at Le Mans, before a move to Suzuki for 1995 made him Doohan’s biggest rival. But in 1996 came a series of heavy crashes.

“A doctor basically just said, ‘if you have another one, you don’t want to know the result.’ I came back, but I just didn’t feel good on the bike … I’d ruptured my middle ear when I had the skull fracture … Doctors were telling me, ‘no more,’ so I chose to go.”

He drifted for a couple of years, taking one of his beloved vintage VW Kombis across Australia. Old school pal, commentator Leigh Diffey, introduced him to pit-lane commentary for Channel Ten. “I guess the Ten thing kept me on track.”

Regular fishing adventures with some older mates gave him a taste for the Outback. “All that came together as one big thing – ‘hang on, I love motorbikes’ – and I put the two together and now we’re five years in with DBA.

“That’s what I love about it. For me it’s 50 percent the adventure and 50 percent sitting around the fire, talking to cane farmers and lawyers and property developers who probably wouldn’t normally meet each other. At the end of the trip, they’re lifelong friends.”