Ford racing legend Alan Mann dies

| 21 Mar 2012

British motor racing legend Alan Mann, owner of one of the most distinctive liveries on these shores, has died.

Racer and later team manager Mann was born in 1936 and his Ford Factory Team red and gold Fords became habitual front-runners.

Starting his Alan Mann Racing equipe in the early 1960s, it became dominant during that decade, winning the World GT Championship in 1965 with the Daytona Cobra.

The roll-call of greats who campaigned Mann's cars included Carroll Shelby, Jackie Stewart, Sir John Whitmore, Frank Gardner and Graham Hill.

The cars he ran got bigger and more impressive – including the spectacular Ford F3L, pictured with Mann, above – but for most he will forever be remembered for the smaller Fords and particularly the Escort and Cortina. It was in an Alan Mann Cortina that Sir John Whitmore scooped the 1965 European Touring Car Championship.

When he quit motor sport, Mann became a helicopter dealer, but was lured back to historic motor sport in recent years, even buying back some of his old cars in which his son Henry in particular has enjoyed great success.

We have now received these wonderful pictures – just how we would like to remember him – and the official obituary from Alan Mann Racing, so reproduce them all here as a mark of respect.

As soon as the Ford Escort became eligible for racing in 1968, the Alan Mann Racing Group 5 Escorts were an immediate and dominant force. Frank Gardner won the British Saloon Car Championship in great style that year, not just winning his class but also notching up some outright wins against the bigger-engined cars. Here he is lapping some smaller cars in a 1968 European event at the Nürburgring.

Alan Mann was also great team leader for the drivers of the cars he prepared. He is seen here at the 1964 Spa 24hrs, in discussion with a group of his drivers. Left to right: Tony Hegbourne, Frank Gardner, Peter Harper in dark glasses, Alan Mann, Sir John Whitmore. Roy Pierpoint is concealed behind Gardner and Hegbourne.

Alan Mann, who died on March 21st aged 75, was a highly successful motor racing team owner who played a key role in the Ford Motor Company’s worldwide Total Performance programme of the 1960s.

Alan Mann Racing, based in Byfleet, won numerous major championships including the British Saloon Car Championship, the European Touring Car Challenge and the FIA World GT Championship for Manufacturers, all with a variety of specially prepared Ford cars. Many of the leading race and rally drivers of the time were employed by Alan Mann Racing, including Sir John Whitmore, Jacky Ickx, Bosse Ljungfeldt, Graham Hill, Frank Gardner , Sir Jackie Stewart and Bruce McLaren.

An accomplished amateur race driver in his own right in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Alan gained his apprenticeship in the motor trade in partnership with his friend and fellow racer, Roy Pierpoint. They ran the Wayside Garage at Rusper, near Gatwick, and raced at the weekends.

The link with Ford began in 1962 when Alan joined a South Coast Ford dealership, Andrews of Southwick, soon revitalising the sales operation and then starting an Andrews racing operation, with Jimmy Blumer driving the garage’s Cortina GT. Their success led to an invitation from Ford in the USA to take part in the Marlboro 12Hrs race in August 1963. The Ford of Britain Cortinas of the Willment and Andrews teams were only supposed to beat the Volvos that had been winning the class in previous races but they finished first and second outright in the race.

That sensational result created Alan’s first big break and at the age of 27 he felt driven to go it alone and set up Alan Mann Racing, which opened at the beginning of 1964. Instead of operating as a team seeking sponsorship, Alan Mann Racing was contracted to Ford and operated as a business. Success soon came when Bosse Ljungfeldt’s Alan Mann-run Ford Falcon was fastest on every stage of the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. Thanks only to the handicap system used in that event then, Ljungfeldt was placed second in the results to Paddy Hopkirk’s works Mini.

Alan Mann Racing remained extremely busy for the next seven years, chalking up countless victories, mainly with Ford Falcons, Mustangs, Lotus-Cortinas, Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupés and Escorts. Alan also developed the lightweight Ford GT40, powered by the 4.7-litre engine, as be believed strongly that it was the way to win the Le Mans 24Hrs in 1966. He was disappointed to be over-ruled by Ford, whose 7-litre Mk II cars did take the top three places at Le Mans that year.

When the big-engined sports prototypes were sidelined by a change in the rules, Alan embarked on his boldest venture, the beautiful Ford F3L of 1968. This radical machine was powered by the then new Ford-Cosworth DFL Formula 1 engine. Designed in Byfleet by Len Bailey, the F3L proved fast enough to take pole positions, set fastest laps and lead major races everywhere it went but it was a matter of regret that poor reliability prevented it from finishing a single race.

As the Ford Motor Company’s policy was changing through 1969, Alan pulled out of motor sport and switched to a career in specialised aviation. He bought Fairoaks aerodrome in Surrey, developing it and creating a number of very profitable businesses there.

Around the turn of the century he revived Alan Mann Racing, which continues to this day, running Ford competition cars of the 1960s in major Historic race meetings.

Alan, who was born on August 22nd, 1936, completed his autobiography shortly before his death, which will be published later this year by MRP. After a long illness, Alan died peacefully in his sleep. He is survived by his wife Sharon, sons Thomas and Henry and his granddaughter, Eva.