Don Emde #25 who was Dick Mann's team mate at BSA Racing Team wrote below on facebook and ok me to share it here too.Memories of my friend Dick Mann
by Don Emde / Photos by Walt Mahony/Dave Friedman and others. Thanks
We lost Dick Mann yesterday. There were two books written about him, so I won’t try to re-tell his life story here. His wife, Kay, tipped me off a few days ago that “Richard” (as she always called him) was in need of Hospice care with his late-stage Dementia. I knew that what she was telling me was that the end was near for the man who could be rightly be called the best overall motorcycle racer of all time.
We talked on the phone for a while and it was very comforting to hear that a few weeks back when I ran that week-long 50th anniversary story of the Inaugural Anglo-American Match Race series, that she read each day’s story to him and showed him the photos of him and I, and David Aldana, Don Castro and Jim Rice as we battled with the best of the British riders on their home turf in 1971.
I raced Yamahas, Suzukis, Nortons and Bultacos during my racing career, but my time on the BSA team remains very special to me, and it forever links me to our team captain, Dick Mann. I was talking to a friend on the phone yesterday and many things came to mind. One is that as he leaves this world, there is no “Dick Mann” coming into our sport to replace him. That’s just a hole that will never be filled.
Dick’s versatility on a motorcycle will never be matched. There were so many specialists back in our days of racing, when we had five types of events in the AMA Grand National Championship. On the point-scoring calendar were 1/4-mile Short Tracks, ½-mile and 1-mile Flat Tracks, TTs and Roadraces. Dick Mann is one of only four riders in the history of the AMA Grand National series to have won in all five. Only Mann, Kenny Roberts, Bubba Shobert and Doug Chandler ever achieved that.
You probably all know that Dick won the Daytona 200 twice, as well as many other roadraces thru the years. So you might think he just liked smooth tracks? The truth was in dirt track racing, the rougher it got, your chances of beating him went down. That brings me to one story he told me a couple of years ago when I went up visit him and Kay at their house in Nevada.
So we were talking about racing, of course, and I asked him how it was that he was so good on rough tracks. He said the late-great racer Joe Leonard gave him that tip early on that it would pay off to be good on rough tracks. Dick said Joe told him that at the smooth tracks there would be 20 or more of what Joe called the “Soup and Salad guys” who will all go fast. But when the track is rough and dusty only a few will be run good there.
Dick took Joe’s advice and he wasn’t just good at the rough AMA Nationals, in the off-season Mann rode motocross at the pro level as well as Enduros and other off-road events. In 1975 he earned a spot on America’s International Six Days Trial team and won a Bronze medal.
Dick was a privateer rider for most of his career, although he had good support from BSA most of the way. He did ride Matchless a lot in his earlier years. I was just starting to go to the races at Ascot with my dad and older brother Bob in the early 1960s and got to see Dick ride there. In 1963, he pulled off one of the greatest upsets ever when he unexpectedly beat all the Triumph TT specialists on a single-cylinder 500cc Matchless to win the 50-lap TT National and ended up winning his first AMA #1 plate over Harley-Davidson’s George Roeder by one point.
The next year over the summer break from school, I went with Bob to an AMA roadrace National he was riding at Meadowdale Raceway near Chicago. Bob crashed out that day, but I got to see Dick ride a Matchless G50 to victory in the 150-mile race.
A few years later, it was my turn to chase Dick Mann and I can’t say I ever beat him straight up when everything was working right with both of our bikes. There was one race that worked out for me, though, during the 1972 Daytona 200 that I eventually won. It must have been somewhere about 180 miles into the race and by then all big 750cc factory bikes had blown up or shredded tires and it came down to me and a Florida rider named Ray Hempstead. Ray and I were in identical 350cc Yamahas, a bike that had never won the 200, but there we were at the front.
At that point, Ray had only a slight lead on me, but I couldn’t seem to get ahead of him. Then one lap as we came out of turn one, I saw Dick Mann exited the pits. His BSA Rocket III that he won with the previous year had developed some problem—ignition I believe—and he was getting back in the race. Ray got past Dick as we came up to him and was in between us through the infield. As we got out onto the banking, I stuck on Dick’s rear wheel and down the back straight he was able to catch Ray’s draft and together we both motored past Hempstead.
Apparently, Dick’s motor again began acting up and he pulled into the pits again and I sped by in the lead and went on to win the race. I mentioned all this to Dick a few times in later years and he never acted like he did anything other than ride his motorcycle. For me, getting that tow from him was one of the best gifts I ever got in my life.
As I mentioned above, Kay always called him Richard. Many called him by his nickname, “Bugs” or “Bugsy.” I never called him that, I left that to his old friends like Gary Nixon and others who raced with him in the mid-60s and when he got that nickname. I couldn’t even tell you how or when they started calling him that. I grew up reading about and watching Dick Mann and when my time came to race with him and be around, just calling him Dick seemed appropriate to me.
Dick Mann’s second AMA Grand National Championship came in 1971, the year I was on the BSA team with him. The season championship came down to the final race of the year at Ontario. It was up to him and Gene Romero and despite crashing in someone else’s oil, he remounted and got back into the race, scoring enough points to earn his second #1 plate. I have a few more memories I’ll include with the attached photos, but I’ll end this story with what Dick himself wrote shortly after Ontario for the last page of the book “Motorcycle Ace. The Dick Mann Story” by Joe Scalzo. It was published in 1972.
Dick Mann…in his own words:
“After Ontario I gathered up my gear, jumped on a jet, and flew back east to ride in some motocross races—just for fun. After a hard season of professional racing, a guy needs to get away from it for a while. He knows it will soon be time to start getting the bikes ready and go back on the National tour. And I’ll be there again, with bells on. As I said before, I’ve reached the point where I can’t see myself doing anything but racing motorcycles—and with the realization, my life is easier.
And what am I thinking about now, having spent parts of three decades in the cramped saddle of a racing motorcycle? One thing I’m not doing, you can be sure, is glancing backward. I think back on bike races I won ten years ago, in fact, and it seems as though someone else won them. There’s a difference between having won and winning, a huge difference, and winning is what I want to continue doing. As long as I am competitive, I’ll keep racing. It’s that simple. I don’t care how old I get. Sometimes, naturally, I look back and think about people I knew, especially the old incredible racers like Al Gunter, Charlie West, Rich Dorresteyn, and Neil Keen. Those were the characters—and we won’t see their likes again, because motorcycle racing is a far more serious business today. I guess that’s the way it should be.
I’m tempted to say that things have always worked out for the best for me, yet sometimes I wonder. I’ve had my share of problems along the way, Probably I’ll have to run it clear to the end to find out if things really do work out for the best.
I hope they do.
Deep down, I’m sure they do.”
I got proof last night that it all did work out fine for Dick Mann when Kay sent me this note:
“Richard was not in pain and left us peacefully. He was at home. Last Monday, the hospice RNs told me he probably wouldn’t make it through the night. Each day, they were surprised he was still with us. They were aware of his strength of character. Toward the end, they told me all of his organs had shut down with the exception of his strong heart and clear lungs. Now we know the secret of his success. Bless his heart, he left me with his strength and peace. For that I am so grateful.”
Godspeed old friend.
Ed's note: The year is 1972 and Dick Mann holds the #1 plate for the second time. Seen here on his BSA A70L 750cc engine mounted in a Trackmaster frame.