Dick "Bugsy" Mann will go down in history as one of the most versatile racers ever to throw a leg over a motorcycle. A two-time AMA Grand National Champion, Mann was one of the very few riders to compete on the national level in dirt track, road racing and motocross. When he retired from professional racing in 1974, Mann was second on the all-time AMA Grand National Series wins list with 24 national victories and had one of the longest careers of competing successfully on the pro circuit spanning the early 1950s to the mid-70s.
In 1971, Mann became the first rider to complete motorcycle racing’s Grand Slam, winning in all forms of AMA Grand National Championship racing: mile, half-mile, short track, TT and road racing.
Mann says the hoopla about the Grand Slam didn’t start until months after he’d completed it.
"I didn’t even think about it after I’d won the Mile [in August of 1971 in Homewood, Illinois]" Mann said. "There was no such thing as a Grand Slam then. It was thought up after I won all of them. Fortunately for me, I won that race in Chicago only after a bunch of the cushion track specialists retired. Had they still been around, I would have finished eighth or ninth like I always had."
Mann was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 13, 1934. His first exposure to motorcycling came in his teenage years when he rode a Cushman scooter on his paper route in Richmond, California. Mann and his fellow Richmond motorcycle paper boys, terrorized the Richmond streets in the early morning hours. His dirt-track riding skills were learned on cinder running tracks behind the area schools. On the weekends, Mann would ride in the hills near Richmond on old cow trails (thus "cowtrailing", the name he gave that style of riding). This gave him the off-road experience he would later use in motocross.
After high school, Mann went to work as a mechanic at fellow Hall of Fame member Hap Alzina's BSA shop in Oakland. There, Mann learned motorcycles inside and out and became a top-notch mechanic. He also started racing during this period, first in scrambles then later at a dirt oval in Belmont, California. Admittedly not a natural at racing, Mann took his time steadily learning his trade and, in the summer of 1954 as an amateur, he set off with veteran racer Al Gunter to tackle the professional racing circuit.
Mann turned expert in 1955 and finished a very respectable seventh in his first Grand National race, the Daytona 200. For the next three years, Mann gradually made a name for himself. In 1957, he finished ranked in the top ten for the first time. He earned a number of podium finishes, including being the runner-up at the Daytona 200 and Laconia national road races in 1958.
The Peoria (Illinois) TT was the site of Mann's first national win in 1959. It would also be where Mann won his final national 13 years later. By the end of the 1950s, Mann had clearly established himself as one of the elite racers in the country. He finished second to Carroll Resweber in the 1959 Grand National Series.
In 1963, Mann earned five podium finishes, and after winning at Ascot Park in Gardena, California, on September 21, he clinched his first AMA Grand National Championship. It would be eight agonizingly long years before Mann would earn his second national title.
In the interim, Mann continued to win races and finish high in the standings. He also found the time to help pioneer the sport of motocross in America. Mann raced in several early AMA professional motocross races in the late 1960s and early '70s. During this period, Mann also represented the United States in the famous Trans-Atlantic Match Races, which pitted the little-known American racers against established pavement stars from Great Britain.
Of all of his national wins, perhaps the most fulfilling for Mann was his 1970 Daytona 200 win riding the new Honda CB750. After all, Mann had been racing in the 200 for 15 years and was runner-up three times, but could not quite find a way to finish atop the podium. To say he was long overdue for a win at Daytona was an understatement. Finally his time came in the 1970 race. He ran strong all day and held off early challenges by former world champion Mike Hailwood and, later in the race, rising stars Gene Romero and Gary Nixon. The win not only gave Mann his first victory at the Daytona classic, it also marked Honda's first win in an AMA national.
Returning to BSA in 1971, Mann made a brilliant comeback at age 37 and won his second AMA Grand National Championship, becoming the oldest rider in the history of the series to win the title. The '71 season was the opening of a second phase of Mann's career. Now the elder statesman of the series, many felt Mann was too old to be competitive with the young new stars of the day, but Mann proved the nay-sayers wrong by winning the season opener at the Houston TT. He followed that up with a second straight win at Daytona. Other wins that season included victories in road races at Pocono, Pennsylvania, and Kent, Washington. Mann was named the AMA's Most Popular Rider of the Year for 1971. Mann continued winning in 1972 and was still competitive in 1973, finishing in the series top ten at nearly 40 years of age.
Mann often wore a straw hat in the pits and it became a trademark.
"They were ladies' gardening hats," Mann explained. "They were usually 59 cents at Woolworths. It was usually the only shade we had, and they were cheap. We had to race and work on the bikes."
Mann retired from the professional circuit in 1974. He raced in over 230 AMA nationals and, when he retired, was second on the all-time Grand National wins list with 24 victories. From 1957 to 1973, Mann finished inside the Grand National top ten every year but one.
Even after all his accomplishments in professional racing, Mann wasn't quite finished. In 1975, Mann returned to his trail riding roots and qualified for the United States International Six Days Trial team (now known as the International Six Days Enduro) and competed for his country on the Isle of Man earning a bronze medal. Mann was given the prestigious AMA Dud Perkins Award for his contributions to the sport in 1995.
When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, Mann was still competing in vintage races across the country. He also owns a business which specializes in restoring and selling vintage motorcycles for racing.