Mike Hawthorn was Britain’s first-ever Formula One world champion.
In October 1958 he was crowned the world’s best racing driver.
3 months later he was dead.
He was killed while he was racing a car.
But not his racing car.
He was racing his 3.4 litre Jaguar on the A3 Guildford bypass.
He was racing against a Mercedes 300 SL.
Both of them road cars, on a normal road.
He knew he was the world’s best driver, what could go wrong?
He was used to tearing round the track at speeds well over 150 mph.
He was used to beating the best in the world.
If he could do that on the fastest tracks ever built, a road full of ordinary drivers wouldn’t be a problem.
And Hawthorne dropped a cog and floored it, to pass the Mercedes.
He went past it at around 80 mph, no problem.
He went into a right hand bend, no problem.
Then his car clipped a KEEP LEFT bollard and skidded.
Then his car clipped the front of an oncoming Bedford truck and spun.
Then his car went across the road at 80 mph, straight into a tree.
The car stopped dead and so did Mike Hawthorne.
So what went wrong?
How could the best driver in the world kill himself on an ordinary road?
A road that thousands of average drivers used safely every day.
Well the reason was actually quite simple.
Mike Hawthorne was the best driver in the world on tracks that were made for racing.
He was used to racing where you knew exactly what was coming.
Where the only job was to go faster than the next bloke.
Where everyone around you is a professional driver.
Where everyone is going in the same direction.
Where there shouldn’t be any surprises.
No slow-moving vehicles.
No pedestrians or cyclists.
And, in Mike’s case, no unexpected KEEP LEFT bollards.
And no oncoming traffic to run into.
But what Mike Hawthorne found out too late, is that ordinary roads can be more dangerous than racetracks.
Because they aren’t built for racing.
Ordinary roads are for ordinary people doing ordinary driving.
And that means unexpected things happen.
It means people may not behave predictably.
Which is a good lesson for us all to learn.
The real world isn’t like a racetrack, full of professionals doing what we expect them to do.
It also isn’t like a marketing meeting, where prediction translates perfectly into behaviour.
Ordinary people haven’t been trained to do what we think they will.
If we want to succeed we must accept this is their world, not ours.
To be successful in their world we have to pay attention to them.
Not just pay attention to whatever we think should happen.
Because they don’t always behave just the way we expect them to.
Ordinary people, ordinary situations, actually take more concentration.
Which is why ‘experts’ don’t always win in the real world.
In the real world you have to be able to think like a punter.
And the punters haven’t read the brief.