“I cried when I heard that Cal Rayborn had passed and I cried when I heard that Dick Mann had passed. We’ve lost a lot of good people over the years, but I have to admit that these two hit me more than others.
When asked about the Dick Mann he knew, King Kenny Roberts said, “Well he was one of my heroes growing up, a real runner. He was a guy with no bullshit. He wasn’t an “image” driver or a driver who had to do everything perfect and then he would race. Not at all. He was truly his own individual, he was one of a kind. He was truly a motorcycle rider, and all that that entails.
“When I was a junior or first-year expert driver Dick came to me at a race and asked if I wanted to go to dinner with him, Mert Lawwill and Cal Rayborn after a short track race in Chicago. . I was very wild at the time. You know… you’re young and you win races and make more money than your parents ever did and things are… you know, good. I didn’t know anything other than to turn the throttle. I partied all the time. Who needs sleep?
“So they’re taking me to dinner, it’s just the four of us and Dick sits me down and says, we want you to be a motorcycle rider and not a party animal.” I’m like, ‘What? I am a motorcycle rider. And Dick explained that yes I was running and winning but I didn’t take it seriously enough and if I took it more seriously I would have a much bigger future in sport. I asked him, ‘Well how do you know that ?! I was just thinking ‘next race, next party, next town’.
“Dick, Cal and Mert all explained to me that I had to think about the future and not accept the way things had been done for thirty years. Dick said: ‘I used to make $ 50 a day for (doing) public relations. So now if you’re doing public relations for less than $ 50 a day, it’s not worth anything to me, do you understand? He was very good with subtle suggestions like that. I thought about that dinner and what Dick had said for… almost fifty years now. I think they were trying to tell me not to just accept the way things were or are now. I just remember sitting there and marveling at the fact that I was having dinner with Dick Mann; I didn’t think about the future before this dinner, but I certainly did after.
While Roberts would agree that Mann was a mentor to him when he ran, it wasn’t the typical teacher / student relationship. “Well, Dick was a motorcycle rider. I don’t know if you know what this means, but if you are a real motorcycle rider you are probably not going to help someone fight. So Dick didn’t really work that way. He was, again, quite subtle. I remember asking him about swingarm pivots, you know, “Dick, what do you think about that swing arm pivot?” I have problems. He said, you know what Roberts? Why don’t you just leave all of this shit alone and get rolling? Do you realize that if you had just left those bikes alone last year and were running the same frame as everyone else, you would have won all the races? Place the swingarm pivot an inch above the centerline and crank it up, okay?
“And he was right. If I had just ridden on a standard frame with the standard swingarm I would have won a lot more races. But what is fun? Because when you start playing with the swingarm and all that will break the chains and the wheels and … in 1975 I led all the TT races that we did and I only finished one , which I won but … broke. “
Roberts had a close friendship with Mann and brought him to the UK to see his Banbury MotoGP operation. He was really overwhelmed. He was working on his own BSA in his shop then he comes over and sees where we’ve taken him. Build MotoGP motorcycles in an F1 store. “
Roberts has many memories of Dick Mann. Asked another, he remembers:
“I remember being in turn four on a half-mile race in Ohio and Dick was there. We were inside the corner and checking things, the surface and everything. I said to Dick, ‘Look at that water hole in the first corner over there. Large giant water hole. He looked at me and asked, “Roberts, can you see one spinning from here?” I said, yes, look at the water hole.
He said, “Well, damn it, no wonder you beat me up all the time.”
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