Farewell to a racing gentleman
Alan Mann, who passed away yesterday, was one of those excellent racing people with whom it was always a privilege to spend time. He knew how to run racing teams; he knew how to prepare cars – and to present them beautifully; he knew the aviation business; he knew people. I spoke to him not so long ago at Goodwood. “Tell me about the Ford F3L,” I said, somewhat presumptuously. Alan was a delight. We spoke for 30 minutes or more. Mike Spence, I recall, emerged from the conversation with a five-star rating.
He will be greatly missed. It was only last night, still oblivious to the sad news, that Sir John Whitmore’s voice sparkled at the other end of my phone. Sir John won – make that dominated – the 1965 European Touring Car Championship with his Alan Mann Lotus-Cortina. Those who watched him three-wheeling over the cobble stones of the Budapest street circuit still talk about it today, years after the event. Alan Mann-Sir John Whitmore was one of the great racing combos of all time. Hand-in-glove. Always in synch.
Frank Gardner, too, was another Mann driver: “If you’ve got the preparation taken care of, you can focus on the driving….” Frank used to say after another of his walkover wins in an Alan Mann Ford Falcon Sprint or Escort.
The picture I show here was taken in 1969 at the British GP by a great admirer of Alan’s. Geoff Sykes, the Warwick Farm Tasman promoter, was in the UK to sign-up drivers for the upcoming Australian summer leg of the series. I’ll never forget his words, upon his return to Sydney, as he described this shot of a contemplative Alan Mann in one of his regular “slide shows”: ” Outstanding car preparation and presentation. Knows what he’s talking about. Knows his helicopters, too! A gentleman.”