Dick Mann, one of the most versatile riders in American Motorcycle Racing history, passed away age at 87 earlier this week but he could have died a happy man following his resounding victory back in 1970 at Daytona.
In the biggest race of the year using the high banks and road course, and in his 15th try, Mann managed to beat the incomparable Mike “The Bike” Hailwood and rising American stars Gene Romero and Gary Nixon to give Honda its first-ever AMA Grand National win. “I beat Mike The Bike and nothing was ever sweeter but it sure as hell wasn’t easy,” said Mann back in a 1983 interview.
From the time he turned pro in 1954, the first year the AMA crowned a champion (Joe Leonard), the 20-year-old Californian was all about competing wherever they ran two wheels and developing the best bikes possible with his mechanical savvy. In 1959, he scored his first-ever AMA national in the TT steeple chase at Peoria, Ill.
Nicknamed ‘Bugsy,’ Mann was fast on everything — becoming the first rider to score victories on a mile, short track, TT and road racing during the 1971 season.
He’s best remembered for trying to win the 1970 title with a broken ankle in the season finale at Sacramento, which was featured in Bruce Brown’s documentary “On Any Sunday.”
When he finally stopped racing at age 41, he’d amassed 24 National wins (second on the all-time list) and then continued to compete in vintage races.
“Throughout nearly 70 yrs of motorcycle racing, his best attribute’s was his humbleness and keen eye,” said Steve Gregory, former AMA rider and one of Mann’s best friends. “He was a focused quiet guy, he always would offer someone a tip on how to improve their riding style or some mechanical advice, he enjoyed seeing and helping other’s enjoy the sport. What a life.”
Dick left behind Wife Kay, along with children Viann, Scott and step son Ken.