Remembering Chris Hannam
On September 22, 2023, the motorcycle racing world lost a great man who contributed much to the sport of motorcycle drag racing, Mr Chris “Cannon” Hannam, of Leeds, UK. The Cannon Man as he was affectionately known, worldwide, was a larger-than-life man, if ever there was one. In so many ways and for so many reasons, he will be missed and mourned by many.
Chris was on holiday in Spain, on two wheels, touring the countryside, when a motoring mishap took him from us. And we lost heavily that day.
While he may be remembered for his Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing adventures at six seconds and over 200 MPH, both as a racer and team principal, it was his persona that will be missed most of all. You could not be in a room with Chris Hannam in it and not know he was there, even if you knew nothing about him.
Aside from his stature as a man, Chris always spoke with conviction and stood fast on his opinions with gusto and boilerplate. He was a man’s man all the way. Often cheerfully. He loved to laugh!
It didn’t matter if Chris was at a race track, suited up in leathers, race-ready, or at a restaurant; he was frequently grinning, cocked & loaded with a quick wit. Chris brought laughter and joy with him wherever he went. He could run the room anytime he wanted to and leave everyone belly-laughing.
An accomplished businessman who enjoyed globe-trotting and adventure, he was both kind and generous. He just lived life large. We here at Dragbike.com, are forever grateful to Chris for his interviews, his candid inside views, and his commentary, live on the microphone at Man Cup events.
While we could go on-and-on about his exploits, perhaps it’s best if his fellow countrymen and racers share their comments with you. Rest in peace, Cannon Man.
– Tom McCarthy
Senior Editor, Dragbike.com
Funeral services for Chris Hannam were held Friday, October 27, at 2:30 p.m. (BBT) at Rawdon Crematorium in Leeds. Following the service, family and friends were invited to Hollins Hall Hotel in Baildon to celebrate Chris’s life.
I first got to know Chris at the Isle Of Man TT in the 80’s when I used to visit on my Harris framed specials. He was a member of the Leeds / Bradford based `Team Splat’ who were a bunch of locals who shared a passion for tuned motorcycles.
We also started to participate in the Superbike Magazine devised `Ultimate Streetbike Series’ around the same time which was originally conceived for road legal motorcycles, although we participated on barely legal and highly tuned and often turbocharged machines – we were all devoted `speedfreaks’ and it was in this series that the ever-popular Superstreet Bike class was founded.
Anyhow, Chris was always a big lad and although a very capable rider, was always somewhat handicapped by his weight and size. He adopted the nickname `Cannon’ after someone mentioned a likeness to the popular TV detective series of the time featuring William Conrad.
Despite his weight he participated in various drag races and speed events, even momentarily holding the world wheelie record for a short moment until his friend and fellow Team Splat member Jarod `Jack’ Frost beat his speed a few minutes later and became the eventual record holder, much to Cannon’s chagrin.
We both competed in similar classes over the years, 9.50 Bike, Superstreet Bike, Competition Bike, Funnybike and eventually Top Fuel and it’s fair to say there was somewhat of a competitive nature between us especially off track when it came to the modern pastime of jousting on social media, Chris often being outspoken on most subjects and with me often arguing a different standpoint.
However, we remained good friends over the years, and spent much time together at the track and socialising in the evenings of races. Our best times were when in the company of our great friend Jay Regan of MRE on our annual pilgrimages to the US for the end of season races in Gainesville, Bradenton, and Valdosta (although the Wing House in Clearwater was the biggest attraction of the trips for Cannon I believe!). Jay’s frequent nightly claims of it being Cannon’s birthday to secure a free `pudding’ were legendary, but not particularly welcomed by Chris particularly when he suffered the ignominy of having to do the `Penguin Dance’ in Hooters for our entertainment (and of course the free dessert).
He sought my advice on the purchases of his first nitromethane fuelled machine, the ex-Rob van Geffen DOHC blown V-twin and then after the ex-Jon Morton blown I4 Puma Top Fuel Bike on which he realised his racing goal of running a 6 second pass.
Aside from his own racing exploits he also became closely involved with another of our friends from the 80’s USB Series Neil Midgley who became a customer of Cannon’s when buying his ex MRE / Tom Perry Funnybikes and later the van Geffen V twin. Neil ran the bikes under the Cannon Motorsports banner and when he bought my former Gulf Oil Top Fuel Bike from Fast Fil from Greece, I was asked for my King Racing team to join forces with Cannon with me as co-Team Principal and with my team members joining theirs to tutor them and tune the bike.
Chris loved being involved with the new team and the world class bike and was greatly looking forward to Neil developing his riding skills and our plans to bring the bike and team over to the US again. Sadly, a low-speed freak accident whilst riding his newly restored Suzuki GS1000 on a motorcycle tour with friends in Spain meant those aspirations remain unmet.
However, despite the cliché of `going doing something he loved’ it was true, and Chris lived his life to the full in the last years, racing cars as well as bikes, indulging in frequent purchases of luxury cars and motorcycles, and certainly minding the fact that `you’re a long time dead’. I will remember him as often loud and outspoken, but a dedicated petrolhead, a gentle and often generous man, and a good friend to many.
He was instantly recognizable at the track and inspired many who struggled with their weight, proving that it was no obstacle to dragracing motorcycles at the highest level. He will be greatly missed, and my thoughts are with his partner Julie and his brother Paul and family.
– Ian King
Marius Van der Zijden
“Chris was a larger than life guy in so many ways. He enjoyed life literally to the MAX! I don’t know what I can say about Chris that hasn’t already been said, but I’ll share this with you: Chris was a very likeable person. And he always had room in his car and it didn’t matter if it was a Lambo or a Continental GT, for his dog, which he loved with all his heart.”
– Marius Van der Zijden
“Chris Hannam is one of those guys that you never forget the first time you meet. I met Chris and his crew in Valdosta at a Man Cup event in 2014 I believe it was. He had his blown V-Rod and was inquiring about a new injected T/F bike. Chris and I had many phone conversations in the coming weeks and months that lead up to me building him a new HRP T/F Harley with our 196 Cubic Inch engine. Chris flew over and stayed with us for a while during the construction of his bike. Chris was a big guy and his personality was even bigger. He had the ability to light up a room just by walking in the door! I never laughed so much in my life as that time he spent here with us.
Once his bike was completed, we all went to Rockingham at another Man Cup event for Chris to do shake down passes. His claim to fame to me was “I have never had a bike smoke the tire in my life”. He was excited to make that first hit and when he did hit the throttle it was exciting. The bike picked up the front wheel and shot out about 60 feet and then began to smoke the big Mickey. It took Chris a second or two to figure out what was happening to him before he lifted. Once back, with big eyes, he said “That was impressive, I never felt anything take off like that in me life”!
That was Chris yet again, lighting up the entire pit!
Godspeed Cannon Man!
– Johnny Vickers
|Until Next time…
– Tom McCarthy