Whatever happened to GP star Daryll Beattie?
After a YZR500 ate his toes, Aussie found his calling in dirt bike touring
inner of the prestigious Suzuka 8-Hour, second in the 500cc world championship behind Mick Doohan in 1995, winner of three GPs, and team-mate to Kevin Schwantz, Luca Cadalora and Doohan himself, Australia’s Daryll Beattie seemed destined for greatness. Then, with the world seemingly at his feet, his career was cut short by injuries in 1997. He struggled to come to terms with life after racing and seemed to drop off the radar, so what actually became of him?
Number of 500cc wins 3
Best championship finish 2nd 1995
How good was he?
Beattie raced in Grands Prix in a time of legends, when winning meant beating the likes of Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz, and Wayne Rainey on some of the fiercest motorcycles ever built. The Aussie burst onto the GP scene in 1992 after winning the Suzuka 8-Hour race alongside Wayne Gardner. Beattie also won the All-Japan 500cc championship that same year and was fast-tracked into the factory Rothmans Honda team in GPs as team-mate to Mick Doohan for the 1993 season.
Despite winning a race and finishing the season third behind Schwantz and Rainey, Beattie left Honda at the end of ’93 because the firm wanted him to switch to World Superbikes to ride the new RC45. Beattie wanted to remain in GPs so switched to Marlboro Yamaha for 1994 but his season was hampered by injury. He had his best year in 1995, riding a Suzuki RGV500 alongside Schwantz, winning two races and leading the championship for the first half of the season before suffering further injuries and relinquishing the title to Doohan. He raced again in 1996 and ’97 but never recovered his previous form.
Didn’t he lose all the toes on his left foot in a crash?
During the French Grand Prix at Le Mans in 1994 his left foot got caught between the chain and rear sprocket during a crash and he had to have all his toes on that foot amputated. Being a rock-hard motorcycle racer, Beattie shrugged it off and carried a joke logo on his helmet the following year saying ‘Hangin’ Five in ’95!’
So that wasn’t the injury that forced him out of racing?
No, Beattie had his best season ever in 1995, finishing second to Doohan in the championship, despite the loss of his toes the previous year and a broken collarbone sustained at Assen in 1995. The real problems came in 1996 when he crashed his Suzuki RGV500 in pre-season testing and suffered serious head injuries. He did continue to race that year but suffered further setbacks after crashes in Spain and France. After struggling to 11th place in 1997, Beattie decided to call it a day and all but disappeared – at least as far as European race fans were concerned.
How many Grand Prix did he win?
Three, but that figure really doesn’t do him justice. From 59 GP starts, he also took and impressive 14 podiums to finish third in the 1993 championship and second in 1995 – on two different makes of bike (Honda NSR500 and Suzuki RGV500).
So what did he do in retirement?
Struggling to adjust to retirement at such a young age (he was only 27), Beattie initially turned his back on bikes because it was the only way he could re-adjust to a life without racing. He eventually found a purpose in life by picking up a commentator’s job at Aussie TV channel Network Ten. He now covers both MotoGP and F1.
Has he ever raced again?
He raced a V8 Supercar at the Bathurst 500 and Queensland 1000 events in Australia in 2002 but failed to finish at Bathurst and could only manage a 25th place in the Queensland race.
Didn’t he make the news over a drink-driving charge a few years ago?
Yes, he was banned from driving for a year in 2010 after failing to take a breath test.
Did he make a full recovery from his injuries?
Pretty much, yes. Now 45, Beattie still has the occasional limp when his toe-less left foot plays up but it doesn’t stop him from doing anything.
Does he have any involvement with bikes these days?
He runs a bike tour company in Australia called Daryll Beattie Adventures, offering two-day rides over challenging off-road terrain on a Honda CRF450X. You can book to ride with him at www.daryllbeattieadventures.com.au. Beattie also turns up at the odd MotoGP race, in particular at Phillip Island, and he still stays in regular touch with old rivals including Doohan and Schwantz.
Words: Stuart Barker Photos: Bauer Archive