Two-time AMA Grand National Champion Dick “Bugsy” Mann died on April 26, 2021, at the age of 86. Bugsy may have been his nickname, but surely the man’s middle name was “Mr. Versatility,” as he was a master at pretty much every two-wheeled discipline he attempted.
Mann was the first-ever racer to achieve what the AMA called a Grand Slam, meaning he won races across all five different circuits included in the Grand National Championship. That means he was just as good at road racing as he was at TT, short track, half-mile, and mile racing. Upon his retirement in 1974, Mann had racked up a total of 24 victories under his belt.
The unassuming racer started his two-wheeled career not in competition, but as a newspaper delivery boy on a Cushman scooter. Eventually, he started racing in scrambles, crossed over to dirt-track ovals, and was an AMA motocross pioneer in the U.S. in the early 1970s. To put it mildly, his career was extremely varied, and competitive motorcycle racing in the U.S. owes a lot to this racer and his indomitable spirit.
Like many racers of the era, Mann raced on machinery created by multiple manufacturers. However, American Honda remembers him particularly fondly due to his historic win aboard a CR750 (the race version of the brand-new and, at that time, untested CB750) at the 1970 running of the Daytona 200.
Up to that point, Honda had yet to compete at the legendary endurance event. For his part, Mann had plenty of experience at Daytona by that point—but no wins. Some sort of star alignment must have taken place, because Mann ended up on the front row of the grid. From there, he managed to take a 10-second win over the next-closest competitor, Gene Romero. Mann’s average race speed for the entirety of the event was 102.697 mph.
Honda had never won an AMA National Championship before, and going into the race, no one yet knew just what a monster the CB750 would turn out to be. After that race, everyone knew—and everyone took American Honda more seriously.
By 1974, Mann was ready to retire from professional racing, but apparently the chance to join the U.S. International Six Days Trial team in 1975 was too good to resist. Mann not only competed, but brought hom a bronze medal from the Isle of Man-based event for his efforts. He was a racer, a mentor, and a true American motorcycling icon.
We at RideApart wish Mann’s family, friends, and fans comfort and joy at the amazing life he led, and send our sincere condolences at this difficult time.
Sources: AMA, American Honda Motor Company, Ultimate Motorcycling