"He whom the gods love dies young" - that comforting message is from the Roman poet Plautus. "Now the racing driver's lot has befallen him, too," was the last sentence of an obituary in the German publication Kraftverkehrs-Pressedienst of 28 June 1939. Three days before, Richard ("Dick") Seaman, leading the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa in pouring rain with his W 154, had crashed into a tree. The car was ablaze in no time; the unfortunate driver with the green dust cap, dazed by the impact and having suffered a fracture of the hand, was unable to extricate himself from the wreck. He succumbed to his severe burns in the evening of that day, at the age of just 26.
The irony was cruel: eleven months had passed since Seaman's greatest hour when he had won the German Grand Prix on the Nürburgring for Mercedes-Benz, leading home Hermann Lang by over three minutes.
Seaman, born as the son of a wealthy and reputable family, indulged in private driving lessons by the chauffeur of the Seaman's Daimler already at a tender age. He lived a carefree life in London and on beautiful country estates, and spent the summers in France. Initially, his mother financed his passion for motor racing. "If ever I could drive for Mercedes, I would not touch the steering wheel of another car any more," he used to say. Indeed he received an invitation to tests from racing manager Alfred Neubauer at the end of 1936 and signed a contract the following year. And he opted for living in Germany - at a time when his mother had long since cut off the money supply from the family fortune. When her son married Erika Popp, daughter of BMW chairman Franz-Josef Popp, in December 1938, Dick Seaman's relationship with his family was beyond repair.