Dick Mann, the legendary motorcycle racer who did a bit of everything in motorcycle racing, is dead at 86, according to Cycle World. Let’s watch one of his greatest races, the 1970 Daytona 200.
By Daytona that year, Mann had already been a Grand National champion once, winning in 1963 with Matchless. By 1970 he was riding for Honda, on a racing version of the CB750, allowed to compete thanks to rules changes — changes that also made the 1970 Daytona 200 a bit unpredictable. Triumph, BSA and Harley also competed, but, with Mann’s bike slowly failing, he was still able to beat them all, by a margin of only two seconds.
Enjoy this extended highlight reel:
Over at Motorcyclist there’s have an account of the race that I can’t recommend enough. Here’s an excerpt:
Even after a meticulous engine rebuild, Mann’s cam-chain tensioner was gone within the first 100 miles. With just 10 laps remaining, Mann’s lead over [Gene Romero] had withered to just 12 seconds. Hansen did some quick calculations and figured they could safely lose 1 second per lap and still win—provided the bike stayed together. “Dick’s machine was smoking, missing, the whole thing,” [Bob Hansen, American Honda’s national service manager] remembers. “I had my doubts.” Still, Hansen kept his fingers crossed, and kept Mann informed of Romero’s progress lap by lap.
With around five laps remaining, [Yoshio Nakamura, Honda’s Formula 1 team manager who also led the team at Daytona] jumped the pit-lane wall and stormed up to Hansen, demanding he tell Mann to increase his speed. “Nakamura pointed at his watch and said, ‘Must go faster, losing a second per lap,’” Hansen recalls. “I said, ‘Get back over that fence and mind your own business. I’m running this race now!’”—words Hansen would later regret. Hansen’s strategy worked—barely. Mann limped across the finish line first, just 2 seconds ahead of Romero. His bike was running on three cylinders, and Jameson later found less than a cup of oil left in the engine.
Hansen is quick to credit others: “Bob Jameson won Daytona in 1970—it’s as simple as that. He went through that motor, and when he was done, it was fantastic.” Hansen is just as quick to praise Mann, whose calm, veteran attitude helped him keep the failing bike together right up to the final moments of the event. American Honda thanked Hansen by terminating his position, ostensibly over his insubordination toward Nakamura.
Mann would go on to win the Daytona 200 again in 1971, along with his second Grand National title, this time with BSA. His strategy was not to outrace everyone but simply to finish, frequently a winning one in the days when motorcycle racing was in many ways a competition of attrition.
Mann, who retired from pro racing in 1974, was inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association’s Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998. Honda gave the following statement to CycleNews:
“Everyone at American Honda sends their heartfelt condolences to Dick Mann’s family, friends and fans,” said Bill Savino, Senior Manager of Customer Engagement at American Honda. “Dick tallied a number of accomplishments over the course of his long career, but he’ll always hold a special spot in our hearts for the role he played in proving that Honda motorcycles could perform with the very best.”