Allow us to introduce you to Diane Seum. This New Jersey native has been involved in motorsport since 1977 - possibly our longest-running Woman of the Week to date. She has volunteered as a flagger (a marshal to those of us on the European side of the Atlantic) since a friend took her to a race in Long Island and got her hooked on that as a way of spending her weekends. Diane has been flag chief since 1984, and came up with a new way of blue flagging drivers - using the blue flag in one hand with an orange glove on the other to indicate the number of cars running behind the car being lapped. She has flagged for many series across the US, Canada, and Europe, including F1 (she's still trying to get heat back into her body after the recent Canadian GP). She was there at the Belgian GP when Eric Comas crashed, and helped Ayrton Senna calm down after seeing the dramatic crash.
Bridget Schuil: What is your first memory of motorsport?
Diane Seum: Sitting watching the Indy car races as a kid with my two older brothers! The one used to tell me about Le Mans as well. When he was in the Navy, they were travelling down a road that looked very familiar to him. He asked the bus driver and they were travelling down the Moulsane straight!
BS How did you first get into flagging?
DS A musician friend of mine asked if I wanted to go to a race at age 19. He took me to Bridgehampton, on the end of Long Island, NY. I met a lot of people and had a great time. Then, later, he took me to Lime Rock Park, in Conneticut. I found I was really enjoying it. So, I found my own way back the next year! That friend and I are still friends, may years later! Many of the people I met that first weekend, are still my friends today as well.
BS What are some of your favourite memories from flagging?
DS Traveling to Europe to do the F1 race at Spa two years in a row. It was in a beautiful area, and the people were wonderful! We even got a fast lap of the course the first morning!
BS What do you love most about what you do?
DS It all comes back to the people. The racing is great, and I enjoy being part of it, but the people are the best. They have helped me and I have helped them and we have been through a lot together.
BS What is the biggest challenge facing women marshals?
DS Just getting started, I imagine. I didn't have much trouble until I became Flag Chief for Northern New Jersey Region Sports Car Club of America. I found a few guys who didn't think a woman could be, or should be flag chief. The good news is, they were few, and the people were generally very supportive.
BS What is your favourite part of the race weekend?
DS It is split. Just before the race, everyone is on point and ready. It is good. After the race, we can get things together and head to the after party, or to dinner. Then, we talk about the day or weekend. It is good.
BS If other women want to get into flagging/marshalling, how would you recommend they get involved?
DS Look up your local racing region in the US, or talk to someone at a track you may be interested. Ask questions of anyone you can!
BS What do you love most about motorsport in general?
DS It still comes back to the people. I had been working the Canadian GP for many years. I had to take a few years off over an injury (not incurred at a track!) I just got back from my first F1 race in a few years, and it was as if I had never left. The people were welcoming and just wonderful! The racing was, of course, great! Although very tiring, I had a great weekend.