Dick Mann, 1936-2021 | RUNNER
Dick Mann, one of the most versatile riders in American Motorcycle Racing history, died aged 87 earlier this week, but he could have died a happy man after his resounding victory in 1970 in Daytona.
In the biggest race of the year using the high banks and the road course, and on his 15th try, Mann managed to beat unrivaled Mike “The Bike” Hailwood and rising US stars Gene Romero and Gary Nixon for give Honda its very first AMA Grand National Victory. “I beat Mike The Bike and nothing has ever been sweeter, but it sure wasn’t easy,” Mann said in an interview in 1983.
From the moment he turned pro in 1954, the first year WADA crowned a champion (Joe Leonard), the 20-year-old Californian was all about competing wherever they raced two wheels and developing the best. bikes possible with its mechanical know-how. In 1959, he scored his very first AMA Championship in the TT Bell Tower Pursuit in Peoria, Illinois.
Nicknamed “Bugsy,” Mann was quick on everything – becoming the first driver to score single mile, short track, TT and road races in the 1971 season.
He is best remembered for attempting to win the 1970 title with a broken ankle in the season finale in Sacramento, which was featured in Bruce Brown’s documentary “On Any Sunday.”
When he finally quit racing at 41, he had amassed 24 national victories (second on the all-time list) and then continued to compete in vintage races.
“Throughout nearly 70 years of motorcycle racing, his greatest asset was his humility and keen eye,” said Steve Gregory, former AMA rider and one of Mann’s best friends. “He was a calm and focused guy, he always offered someone advice on how to improve his riding style or mechanical advice, he loved to see and help others enjoy the sport. What a life.”
Dick left his wife Kay, as well as children Viann, Scott and his stepson Ken.