Dick Seaman

Full Name:
Richard John Beattie Seaman
Born:
4th February 1913
Aldingbourne, West Sussex
Died:
25th June 1939 (Aged 26)
Spa-Francorchamps, Wallonia (B), Belgian GP
Nationality:
British
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Britain’s highest profile pre-war racing driver captured the headlines with victory in the 1938 German Grand Prix. With war looming, an Englishman driving for Germany’s leading GP team and winning its national race was ready-made copy for the British press.

Early racing career

Brought up in Sussex society and educated at Cambridge University, Dick Seaman began racing in 1934 with an MG K3. He qualified the Whitney Straight-entered car on pole position for his voiturette debut at Albi and won the Prix de Berne at Bremgarten a month later. A new and ambitious star had arrived.

Seaman bought an ERA B-type and starred in the 1500cc category during 1935 – battling for the lead at the Nürburgring and Dieppe before dominating the rest of the season. He was the talk of British racing and voiturette success continued a year later, now driving his famous black Delage 15S8.

Seaman also made his GP debut in the 1936 German GP – finishing eighth in Count Trossi’s works Maserati 4CM. His season ended with victory in the second Donington GP when sharing Hans Rüesch’s Alfa Romeo C-type against a largely local field.

Grand Prix driver for Mercedes-Benz

Those successes attracted attention from Mercedes-Benz who he joined for 1937 as its fourth driver. Second in the Vanderbilt Cup in America, he was fourth in the Italian and Masaryk GPs at Monza and Brno respectively. That promise was only enhanced during a second season with the team.

Most notable was the 1938 German GP where he was running in a competitive second position behind team-mate Manfred von Brauchitsch when the German was delayed by a pit fire. Seaman was waved into the lead by Team Manager Alfred Neubauer to score a first major GP victory. The sight of an Englishman giving a half-hearted Nazi salute in victory perhaps epitomised the state of GP racing in the late 1930s.

Brilliant in the wet Swiss GP – only beaten by the acknowledged "rain master" and his team leader Rudolf Caracciola – he ended the year by finishing a popular third at home in the Donington GP.

He defied his mother’s wishes in the winter and married Erica Popp, the daughter of a director at BMW. It was an English/German marriage as those countries’ veered towards war. Seaman’s racing career was on the up and he was now rated on a par with GP racing’s top stars after just two seasons with Mercedes.

It was raining again for the first major GP of 1939 – the Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps. Seaman seemed set for another victory and was pulling away from Hermann Lang’s sister car with 13 laps to go. But he crashed into the trees on the approach to La Source and the car caught fire. Although extricated from the burning wreckage, Dick Seaman died in hospital before the end of the day.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1939 European Championship
Daimler-Benz
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1938 European Championship
Daimler-Benz
3 1 2 1
34% win rate
0
1937 European Championship
Daimler-Benz
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1937 AAA National Championship
Daimler-Benz
1 0 1 0
0% win rate
6th 495
1936 European Championship
Officine Alfieri Maserati
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0