Photo credit: Julian Hanford
Photo credit: Julian Hanford
A view from Dave Trott

A view from Dave Trott: A conclusion is just a place where you stopped thinking

Every single Formula One racing car in the world has a rear engine.

Why is that?

With the vast mounts of money and brainpower pumped into the most technological of sports, why doesn’t anyone choose to do it differently? 

Was it the result of years of logical planning and considered design?

Actually, no.

It was the result of someone not having much money.

Before the 60s, Grand Prix racing was all about power.

The bigger the engine, the faster you went.

And the only place to put a huge engine was the front of the car.

So that’s where it went.

For all the "experts", that was a given. It wasn’t questioned.

Meanwhile, down in Formula Three, it was mainly amateurs.

They weren’t experts, just enthusiasts.

The engine size had to be 500cc, which meant a motorbike engine.

A motorbike engine drove the wheels through a chain.

You couldn’t have the engine in front of the driver, with a great long chain to the back wheels.

So John Cooper put the engine behind the driver near the rear wheels.

And it worked so well, Cooper cars began winning races.

Then, one day, they spotted a new sort of engine.

From Coventry Climax, the forklift truck manufacturer.

It was an engine for pumping water.

This engine was half the weight, but twice as powerful as the previous water-pumping engine.

It was light enough to be put in the little cars behind the driver.

So they put it there, and Cooper moved up to Formula Two, where they won even more races.

In fact, they won so many races, they moved up to Formula One.

But nobody took them seriously, with their silly little car with the silly little engine.

In fact, at their first Grand Prix in Argentina, the organisers almost refused to let them race.

But they won.

And then they won the next Grand Prix and people stopped laughing.

And, in the next two years, Cooper won 11 Grand Prix races.

They were world champions twice.

And, in the years from 1962 to 1966, they won 22 more Grand Prix races.

And, suddenly, all the Formula One "experts" quietly began putting their engines behind the driver.

Because they could see it wasn’t just about power any more.

It was about weight distribution and balance and handling.

The car could be lighter, which meant less stopping for fuel and less wear on tyres and brakes.

Suddenly, an entire new area of design opened up.

Colin Chapman was the founder of Lotus Cars.

They won the Formula One World Championship seven times between 1962 and 1978 with rear-engine cars.

He said: "Adding power makes you go faster on the straights. But subtracting weight makes you go faster everywhere." 

And now every single Formula One car in the world has a rear engine and, for "experts", any other way is unthinkable.

Just the way front engines were unquestioned before that.

Experts are great at telling you what can’t be questioned.

That’s how you can spot an "expert".

They get in the way of creativity.

As Edward de Bono said: "A conclusion is just a place where you stopped thinking."

Dave Trott’s new book, One Plus One Equals Three, is out now