Following Monday’s passing of Dick “Bugsy” Mann at the age of 86, American Honda today honored the versatile racer.
A true Renaissance man, Mann was noted for his adaptability as a rider, and for the longevity of his professional motorcycle-racing career, which included charter membership in the exclusive Grand Slam Club (for riders who earned Grand National wins in road racing, short track, TT, half-mile and mile competition), two AMA Grand National Championships and a bronze medal for Team USA in the 1975 International Six Days Trial. According to Racer X Illustrated, Mann even scored a win at the first AMA-sanctioned professional motocross race. Those successes came with a variety of brands, but the Utah native’s primary tie with Honda centered on a single race—the 1970 Daytona 200.
It was Honda’s first factory effort in the legendary endurance event, with a four-rider project aboard CR750 machinery (the racing version of the now-iconic CB750 four-cylinder, which had started production just a year earlier). Conversely, Mann (then 35) had a long and relatively successful history at the race, though victory had eluded him to that point.
After launching from the front row of an all-star starting grid, Mann eventually secured the lead, then preserved the bike in the race’s latter stages to score a 10-second win over Gene Romero, with Don Castro third. In the process, Mann ran a record average race speed of 102.697 mph. It was Honda’s first AMA National Championship race win, and it established the CB750 at the top of the performance hierarchy. (Over four decades later, Motorcyclist magazine would name it the Bike of the Century.) As such, the victory was significant not only for Honda, but for its American subsidiary.
“For a Japanese company with its first, completely unproven big bike, it was hard to top that,” Bob Hansen, then American Honda’s National Service Manager, is quoted as saying in Aaron P. Frank’s book Honda Motorcycles.
“Hansen prepared the machine, and I rode it as best I could, just as I was contracted to do. That was it,” said the humble Mann in the same book.
Mann, who would back up the Daytona 200 win the following year aboard a BSA, was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1993, and he is a charter member of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
“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.”