We are saddened to hear of the death of Alan Mann at the age of 75 after a long illness – he was one of the stand-out figures from the British Touring (nee Saloon) Car Championship’s early days.
Born in 1936, Mann first appeared on the racing radar when contesting several non-championship F1 races, and thereafter hill climbs, during the late Fifties in an elderly HWM-Alta.
By the start of the Sixties, though, he had turned his attention to the exciting new sport of saloon car racing, quickly establishing what was to become a famous relationship with the Ford Motor Company.
Initially he ran Zephyrs, Anglias and Cortina GTs under the Alan Andrews Racing banner and enjoyed class wins with drivers such as Henry Taylor and Jimmy Blumer. These results impressed those at Ford HQ back in the States and in 1964 the newly established Alan Mann Racing – based in Byfleet, Surrey, close to the old Brooklands circuit – became an official Ford factory team.
For the next few years, Mann’s distinctively liveried red and gold cars made their indelible mark in the BTCC history books. Roy Pierpoint took the title in 1965 in a 4.7-litre Mustang and in 1967 and 1968 there were back-to-back crowns with Australian driver Frank Gardner, first in a mighty Falcon and then in one of Ford’s nimble Escort Mk1 Twin Cams (pictured).
Mann’s preparation and organisational skills were widely respected throughout this era and his team also enjoyed international glory in a wide variety of events including the Monte Carlo Rally, Tour de France and Le Mans. Indeed Alan Mann Racing won the 1965 World GT Championship with Carroll Shelby and Jack Sears sharing a Daytona Coupe Cobra. The team’s sportscar involvement also included running GT40s and the stunning F3L prototype for Ford.
Veteran commentator Ian Titchmarsh – the authoritative voice over the tannoys at BTCC events today – told btcc.net: “Alan Mann absolutely set the standards, just as I suppose RML has in the modern-day BTCC. His levels of preparation are probably why Ford favoured his team because they were second to none.
“Those standards will always be a lasting legacy of his but, so too, will be that gold and red livery – it is one that other people copy still to this day and something that will always be remembered.”
And wrote double BTCC champion Jack Sears in his biography ‘Gentleman Jack’: “He (Alan Mann) was probably one of the finest team tacticians in motor racing. Others like Neubauer of Mercedes Benz and John Wyer of Gulf Racing are lauded to the heights, but if you look closely at the manner in which Alan Mann ran his motor racing teams in the 1960s he was clearly a few brain cells ahead of most of the opposition. He left nothing to chance.”
After the failure of the fast yet frail F3L, Alan Mann Racing closed its doors at the end of the Sixties and Mann himself switched his attentions to running a helicopter business as well as owning the Fairoaks aerodrome in Surrey. However, with son Henry he re-opened his stable in 2004 to run cars in historic motor racing – various red and gold Fords can still be seen in action.
The full history of Alan Mann Racing will be published later this year in an autobioraphy completed by shortly before the great man's death on 21 March.
The BTCC offers its condolences to Alan’s family and many friends. His iconic red and gold Fords, though, will live on forever as a fitting tribute to a true touring car legend.