If you ever got the chance to talk to one of your long-time heroes from the motorcycle world, what would you say? Would you buckle and stammer? Would you seize the moment and ask the hard questions the presenters never had the balls to ask? Or would you flip a complete 180, changing gears midstream and opting to query him about an entirely different subject than he was used to?
As it turns out the post office down the street from my house is no safe haven for a former 500cc world championship road racer just trying to mail out a Christmas present. On this particular day Network Ten presenter Daryl Beattie was spotted, cornered and peppered with a volley of questions that he did not--and could not--see coming.
RB: When did you first fall in love with dirt bike riding?
DB: When I was quite young I entered a contest to win a motorbike. One day I got a letter back from Channel 7 and the Jackie McDonald cartoon show, informing me that the drawing for the Suzuki RM50 was going to be held out at Tivoli Raceway. In those days in Australia that would have been a round of Mr. Motocross back when guys like Stephen Gall and Jeff Leisk were racing. At the time I wasn’t into motorbikes; no one in my family was either. We got the letter saying please come into the studio in Brisbane to collect your prize and you’ll be on television.
That’s how it all kick-started for me--I had nothing to do with motorbikes, but I won a motorbike and then went on to race become a Grand Prix motorcycle racer later in life.
RB: Of these four famed road racers, who do you feel was the fastest on a dirt bike: Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan or Wayne Rainey?
DB: (Laughing) I never really raced dirt bike with any of those guys. Wayne would have spent a lot of time in Modesto, California, with Kenny Roberts out at his ranch. I could see the amount of dirt bike riding they all did on 100cc bikes around a little dirt oval. We all came from that sort of a background. Kevin Schwantz and I hung out a bit more around 1995 when he was my teammate. Kevin and I rode dirt bikes together a little bit and he just seemed a natural on a dirt bike. He rode dirt track and a bit of motocross--and he also rode trials. (Schwantz stills rides trials bikes with the trials riders in the south of Spain.) Kevin was just well-rounded on everything he rode; that’s why I would have to pick him more than anyone in that group.
Mick Doohan grew up on dirt track [like me] and raced against guys in an older age group than me. Mick was always very open about it as well. He was good at it, but he worked harder than anyone to be good at it. He had to work hard, unlike those who have that raw natural talent like a Marc Marquez
does. We just watched Marquez racing dirt track in Spain--that’s where they’re all going and still doing it, sliding and tucking both ends of the bike.
RB: After the champagne dried off from all your trips to the podium, what did you decide to do for a living?
DB: I work for Network Ten now as a presenter. The network has MotoGP only now; we used to show all of the classes. TV rights around the globe are getting expensive. In the US it’s pay TV; in Europe it’s all pay TV, and in Australia it’s on Fox. We have just MotoGP on free-to-air on Network Ten. Times are changing, but while it’s there, I’m doing it. It keeps me involved and I enjoy it.
RB: Can you tell us about your newest business venture, Daryl Beattie Adventure Tours?
DB: I sure can. I grew up with my dad telling me stories out in the middle of Australia, working with the indigenous people and indigenous cooks in areas like Birdsville. I have a tour that goes from Birdsville, QLD, out to Alice Springs, NT. We also do that tour in both directions, east and west. I have been fishing in Cape York for the last 18 years so I’ve started some tours there. It’s a great area. We also do the Canning Stock Route out in Western Australia. The Canning Stock Route is the longest historic stock route in the entire world [with a total distance of around 1850 kilometers].
It’s a big country here and there are some great places to see. The deeper you get out in Australia, the better the characters and the better the people.
RB: How many people are saddled up on one of your typical tours?
DB: I usually take seven customers. Money-wise, it would be great to take more, but you also have to think of the worst-case scenarios. Some of those areas are very remote and if something bad happens out there you have to have a backup plan. I talk to all the guys before our days start. I want everyone to have fun but to also keep in mind that we are in the middle of nowhere. For me, that’s what it’s all about: experiencing some of the most remote places we have in this country. A lot of what we do is deep sand riding, but it is absolutely beautiful. On the tours we all ride Honda CRF450Xs with 21-litre tanks and Michelin Desert Race tires. The guys who come on our tours get to see the dingos and the camels as well as all of our wildlife that we have out here in Australia.
RB: People from all walks of life enjoy riding dirt bikes with you now. Just how diverse is the clientele?
DB: We get all kinds. That’s what I love about it all--you get so many different sorts of characters on a tour. On a recent trip I had a guy who owned an engineering company, a petroleum guy who sells 30-million liters of diesel a month, a property developer from Brisbane and two cane farmers from a small town in North Queensland. When they are all sitting around a fire after riding dirt bikes, it wouldn’t matter if you had $10 million or $10 dollars--at the end of a day of riding, everyone is the same. It’s heart-warming to see that diverse group all hugging each other after the trips. If you plopped those same people in a bar, they most likely wouldn’t even introduce themselves to each other. But, if you throw in a dirt bike in a remote area and a campfire, suddenly everyone is at the same level.
RB: The Honda 450Xs are pretty bullet-proof weapons. Are you going to stick with them for now or add in some other manufacturers’ bikes?
DB: I want to mix it up in the future and also change up some of the routes. As you know, Honda had that prototype bike released at one of the Dakar launches. Honda is going to look at that big-bike market in the next 12 months. I have always stayed in line with Honda so that’s something I’m looking forward to. I also want to broaden the company insofar as the technology of filming with drones and such. The videos are great, but we want to do more and grow bit by bit.
RB: I bet you were surprised when I changed it up and asked you about riding off-road bikes.
DB: You bet. It was also pretty funny to run into you at the local post office down the road from my mum’s! The last time I saw you I was with Doohan in Amsterdam after the Assen GP. I still love the GPs, but I do also enjoy a little red dirt under my fingernails at the end of the day.