TUESDAY, MAY 29: Daryl Beattie, who finished runner-up to fellow-Australian Michael Doohan in the 500cc motorcycle world championship in 1995, is making a comeback to racing in this year's Australian Safari international cross country...
TUESDAY, MAY 29: Daryl Beattie, who finished runner-up to fellow-Australian Michael Doohan in the 500cc motorcycle world championship in 1995, is making a comeback to racing in this year's Australian Safari international cross country rally.
The 4,300km rally through the Northern Territory from August 19-26 will be Beattie's first race since he retired from 500cc competition after the 1997 Indonesian Grand Prix at Sentul.
Beattie will ride a Honda XR650 in the Safari's Moto Division, which is also round three of the Federation Internationale Motocycliste (FIM) Cross Country Rallies World Cup series.
The 30-year-old Queenslander, who won three grand prix races and had 14 podium finishes from 57 starts in the 500cc world championship between 1992-97, said his aims in the Safari were firstly to complete the course from Alice Springs to Darwin, and to be as competitive as possible.
"I've never done anything like the Safari before, and that's one of the reasons I'm doing it," he said.
"Racing 500s was fantastic, especially when you win a grand prix, but that part of my career is over and now I feel ready for a new challenge."
"There are days in the Safari where you ride for five or six hours, so that will be different for me because a grand prix is usually about 45-minutes from start to finish."
Beattie will race in the Safari as part of a three-man Honda team which also includes 1999 Moto Division champion Stephen Greenfield from the Northern Territory, and Victorian Peter McDonald, who has competed in the event seven times since 1985.
The trio will race XR650 four-stroke machines supplied by Honda Australia, and the team will be managed by former Safari rider Glenn Hoffmann, from NSW.
"I'm a novice at this type of racing, but there are plenty of people in the team with Safari experience to help me learn the ropes," said Beattie.
Beattie believes his dirt-bike riding background, highlighted by winning two Australian short circuit titles in 1986 as a teenager before switching to road racing, will help him in the Safari.
"I've been riding dirt-bikes for as long as I can remember, and since I retired from 500s I still like to get out and blast around in the bush," he said.
"I'm familiar with riding these types of off-road bikes, which is a help, but what I'm lacking at the moment is experience in long-distance races like the Safari."
Beattie said he had set no specific goals for the Safari, but would use the performance of former 500cc world champion Kevin Schwantz in the 2000 event as a yardstick.
Schwantz, who was Beattie's 500cc team-mate in 1995, made his off-road debut in the 2000 Safari and finished 13th outright and won a stage.
"The competition will probably be tougher this year with the World Cup riders from overseas, but Kevin (Schwantz) did a pretty good job last year," said Beattie.
"I've spoken with Kevin about the Safari and he said the hardest thing will be learning to read the pace notes and maps while you're actually riding the bike."
Beattie said he intended to undertake lengthy riding stints on a Honda XR650 over the next two months to prepare for the Safari, which will be contested over 23 stages.
"I've had a ride on a XR650 and it's got awesome power and acceleration, as you'd expect from a Honda, and it also stops and turns and does everything you'd want from this type of bike," he said.
"I've also started getting into the 'gym' to get myself as fit as possible because physical endurance is obviously crucial in an event like the Safari."
Beattie, one of eight Australians to win 500cc grand prix races, has had a lengthy past association with Honda. He was contracted to the Japanese manufacturer's Honda Racing Corporation from 1989 through to the end of 1993. During that time he won the Australian 250cc Championship in 1989 and the All-Japan 500cc Championship in 1992.
His 500cc world championship performances for Honda included a memorable third place on debut in the 1992 Australian Grand Prix at Eastern Creek, behind team-mate Doohan and Yamaha-mounted American Wayne Rainey, and winning the German round at Hockenheim the following year.
Beattie also finishing third in the 500cc world championship in 1993 on a Honda, before switching to Yamaha the following year. He raced for Suzuki from 1995 up to his retirement.
Craig Fletcher, Motorsports Manager of Safari owners Octagon Worldwide, said Beattie's entry was a coup for the event.
"Daryl (Beattie) is part of a select group who have won 500 grand prix races and it is appropriate to have an Australian of his international standing in the Safari in the year when the event is part of the World Cup," said Fletcher.
The 2001 Safari, which is being supported by the Northern Territory Government for the third successive year, also includes the Auto Division for off-road four-wheel-drive vehicles, and a new Rally Division for cars and lightweight four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Octagon Worldwide is the sports marketing and entertainment division of the Interpublic Group, one of the world's largest marketing and communications groups. Octagon's other motorsport events in Australia in 2001 included the Grand Prix Rally in Victoria in February, and the Targa Tasmania tarmac rally in April.
DARYL BEATTIE – FAST FACTS
DATE OF BIRTH: 26.9.70
PLACE OF BIRTH: Charleville, Queensland
LIVES : Gold Coast, Australia
FIRST BIKE: Suzuki 50 minibike (aged 10)
ROAD RACING DEBUT: 1986, Surfers Paradise, Queensland
500cc GRAND PRIX DEBUT: 1992, Australia, Eastern Creek (finished 3rd)
500cc GRAND PRIX STARTS: 57 (1992-1997)
500cc GRAND PRIX WINS: 3 (1993 Germany; 1995 Japan, Germany)
500cc GRAND PRIX PODIUM FINISHES: 14 (1 x 1992, 4 x 1993, 9 x 1995)
500cc GRAND PRIX BEST SEASON: 2nd (1995)
OTHER MAJOR WINS/CHAMPIONSHIPS:
1st 1989 Australian 250cc Championship
1st 1992 Suzuka Eight-Hour, Japan
1st 1992 All-Japan 500cc Championship