Dick Mann's 1970 Daytona 200 Victory | Mann & Machine

American Roadracing’s Modern Era Began When Honda Won the 1970 Daytona 200

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Motorcyclist Archives

With around five laps remaining, Nakamura jumped the pit-lane wall and stormed up to Hansen, demanding he tell Mann to increase his speed. “Nakamura pointed at his watch and said, ‘Must go faster, losing a second per lap,’” Hansen recalls. “I said, ‘Get back over that fence and mind your own business. I’m running this race now!’”—words Hansen would later regret. Hansen’s strategy worked—barely. Mann limped across the finish line first, just 2 seconds ahead of Romero. His bike was running on three cylinders, and Jameson later found less than a cup of oil left in the engine.

Hansen is quick to credit others: “Bob Jameson won Daytona in 1970—it’s as simple as that. He went through that motor, and when he was done, it was fantastic.” Hansen is just as quick to praise Mann, whose calm, veteran attitude helped him keep the failing bike together right up to the final moments of the event. American Honda thanked Hansen by terminating his position, ostensibly over his insubordination toward Nakamura. Hansen immediately took a position with Kawasaki as director of technical service, managing a successful factory racing effort.

For his part, Mann remains characteristically nonchalant. “That was a normal situation for Daytona,” he says. “It wasn’t a very complicated racetrack. They didn’t have the chicane in the backstretch, so the bikes were basically at maximum RPM for a very long time. Riding skill was important, but it was usually a battle of attrition. Hansen prepared the machine and I rode it as best I could, just like I was contracted to do. That was it.”

With all due respect to Mann, Honda’s 1970 Daytona 200 win was an incredible result that foreshadowed the future of American roadracing. By the end of the decade, BSA was out of business, Triumph was headed that way and Harley-Davidson had abandoned sport motorcycles to become the cruiser juggernaut it is today. MC

Go Little Honda!
Big Red’s 1967 Daytona Debut
Words: Aaron Frank
Photo: Courtesy of Team Hansen

The year 1970 was not the first time Honda raced at Daytona. Team Hansen entered a trio of underdog CR450s in the 1967 Daytona 200—and nearly won. Bob Hansen worked closely with the factory to prepare the bikes, even sending color chips to Japan so these “privateer” bikes could be painted in the team’s official orange-and-white livery. “Honda only knew one way to go racing,” Hansen says. “It was first-class, and very expensive!”

Hansen created quite a commotion at Daytona that year. The Triumph and Harley-Davidson racebikes barely revved beyond 6500 rpm, while the Honda twins made peak power at 11,000 rpm. “The first time Jimmy Odom passed the tower, it sounded like a jet buzzed the straightaway,” Hansen remembers. Everyone laughed at the “Little Hondas” until Odom lapped the tri-oval at 134 mph, besting all but one 750cc Harley KRTT and matching the well-developed 500cc Triumph T100Rs.

Come race time, all eyes were glued to Odom’s Honda on the front row, with Walt Fulton Jr.’s Harley right beside. Odom, an expert dirt-tracker, had little roadracing experience. Hansen told him to stick to Fulton’s tail and “try to learn something”—advice Odom followed as best he could. The Honda was faster, but the Harley rider’s skill ruled the infield. Odom looked like a yo-yo attached to Fulton’s tail each time the pair headed up onto the banking.

As Odom got faster, he began dragging the pipes. “Honda sent a note that read: ‘If pipe hits ground, okay to pound with hammer,’” Hansen laughs. A few laps from the finish Odom fell in the International Horseshoe, ending his run. Gary Nixon won that year for Triumph, while future Indycar racer Swede Savage was the top-finishing Honda in 11th place.

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