In 1953, it was a foregone conclusion that Ferrari would win the Le Mans 24hr race.
They had Alberto Ascari, the current world champion, driving for them.
They also had the Ferrari 375 with the massively powerful 4.5 litre V12 engine.
The only other car that could even come close was the Jaguar C-type, but it only had a 3.4 litre straight 6 engine.
And, instead of the world champion, it had Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt driving.
And the day before the race, Hamilton and Rolt were disqualified on a technicality, anyway.
They went to a bar to drown their sorrows.
And they carried on drowning their sorrows, in fact they were up all night drowning them.
They were still drowning them at breakfast when the owner of Jaguar, Sir William Lyons, found them and said he’d agreed to pay a FF25,000 fine, they were racing in 6 hours.
Well even if the car was okay they weren’t.
They hadn’t slept, they hadn’t sobered up, and they had 6 hours to face the best in the world in a 24-hour race.
They did the only thing they could, they drank coffee and brandy, and at pit stops they drank more coffee and brandy.
And both stimulants seemed to have worked.
They broke the lap record, they broke the windscreen, the driver even broke his nose.
They raced for a day and a night against the best in the world and they won.
They won Le Mans by 4 laps, half an hour ahead of the next car to finish.
They were the first drivers ever to average over 100 mph for the entire 24 hours.
It’s tempting to ask: “If coffee and brandy work so well why doesn’t every driver take it before and during every race?”
Well the truth is, it wasn’t just the coffee and brandy that the drivers had.
It was also something the car had: disc brakes.
Disc brakes were brand new at that time, and the other racing cars didn’t have them.
Slowing down a car wasn’t what racing was about, going faster was what racing was about.
That’s why Ferrari had a bigger, more powerful engine.
But that is only one kind of thinking, in fact that’s straight-line thinking.
And no racetrack is a straight line, they are loops, with bends.
However fast you are going on the straight you will need to slow down for the bends.
And the faster you are going the more you need to brake.
This was the creative part of Jaguar’s thinking.
Ferrari, like all the other cars, used drum brakes.
Drum brakes have the brake pads on the inside pushing outward to slow the wheel down.
Dunlop had developed disc brakes which have the brake pads on the outside pushing inward to slow the wheel down.
Because the drum pads are on the inside they get hotter, with no way to disperse the heat.
But the disc pads are on the outside, the air rushing past cools them down straight away.
Heat is what stops brakes from working, if they can’t get rid of the heat they fade.
Disc brakes get rid of the heat fast, drum brakes don’t.
So the disc brakes meant the Jaguar could consistently out-brake the Ferrari, turn after turn.
Which is exactly what they did for 24 hours.
The Ferraris had to slow down for the corners because their brakes would fade.
The Jaguars went through the corners faster because their brakes didn’t fade.
Jaguar changed the game so that all the power Ferrari had under the bonnet didn’t matter.
It was the dawn of a new type of creative thinking about winning races.
That’s why when Colin Chapman the founder of Lotus cars, was asked why he concentrated on lightness instead of power, he said:
“Adding power makes you faster on the straight.
Subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere.”
It’s worth remembering that for everyone who likes to call themselves creative.
Don’t just try to be better than other people, be different.