The clash of the Titans and the clash of the tartans

In 1945 British secret agent Cameron Earl was given a very special mission. He was sent off to Germany in a rain coat and a silly hat with orders to rifle through the archives of Mercedes-Benz and AutoUnion to discover as much as possible about the pre-war Grand Prix Silver Arrows racing cars which had enjoyed such success in the 1930s with the "Titan" drivers. The intention of the British government appears to have been to use the information gathered to enhance its car industry.

The result of the mission was a report entitled: "An Investigation into the Development of German Grand Prix Cars 1932-1939". Unfortunately the government had spent all its money on planes, ships and bombs and had more important things to worry about that investing in motor racing and so it decided that the report should be published in the hope that aspiring engineers might use the information contained within. Seven hundred and fifty copies of the report were printed and they sold (very quickly) for 25 shillings each. The report contained the full technical specification of the German cars, radical design concepts, the budgets. Everything. It was a brilliant piece of work.

At the time there were many young engineers who had been trained on wartime military projects and who were looking to have some post-war fun. There was no money about but the Austin Seven was there and this was used to great effect as the basis for many do-it-yourself "Specials" which were raced, rallied, hillclimbed and crashed by the happy-go-lucky generation.

The amazing thing was that the really great ideas hidden away in Earl's report were not used and it was not until 1960 - 15 years after the war - that John Cooper built the first rear-engined racing car of the modern era. AutoUnion had done it in 1932. The rear-engined revolution marked the acceleration of Britain's domination of the motor racing industry as the business snowballed around itself.

Today the racing industry is a showcase for British technology and innovation.

It is ironic that 50 years after Earl's report the German car companies are beginning to get their own back. Having bought up the British car industry - from the Rover Group to Rolls Royce and Bentley - the Germans are now in the process of taking over McLaren as well and there have been a lot of suggestions that BMW will eventually buy Williams Grand Prix Engineering as well - although F1 insiders know that Patrick Head and Frank Williams will fight the Germans on the beaches rather than give up control of their little empire.

At the same time Volkswagen is sniffing around F1 and may also end up owning one of the top teams with the Benetton team - in particular - looking like a canard on crutches.

Of the great British car companies only Jaguar and Aston Martin have escaped German ownership. They have been gobbled up by the giant Ford Motor Company - and as we all now know Ford has not only bought Stewart Grand Prix but now intends to rename it Jaguar and compete head-to-head in F1 with BMW and the rest.

It is great news that the company has decided to use Grand Prix racing as a promotional tool to sell Jaguars. It underlines what an effective form of advertising F1 has become and hints that other car companies will probably follow. Already we have seen General Motors personnel popping up saying that they are "on holiday". VW is looking and BMW, Honda and Toyota are all actively involved in projects. Renault too will soon be back.

We are looking ahead at what should be a really great era for Grand Prix racing as the big guns open fire on one another. At the same time the Jaguar announcements highlight the fact that big corporations are not always logical. People at the Ford Motor Company will tell you that the firm bought the Stewart team because it was not happy with the way it was developing and wanted more control. That made sense. But then came the announcement that the same management was being kept on. I am not wishing to be unkind to the Stewart Family but that does not make any sense at all because now Ford has handed out something like $50m to buy the team but has left the same people in control.

One can only marvel at those canny Scots who have pulled off the deal...

It is clear that this curious situation has only come about because of the vagaries of corporate politics. There can be no other explanation despite the best efforts of some to convince us befuddled pressmen that this was all part of a long-term corporate masterplan.

Politics is the great danger of Formula 1 in a corporate era. The big corporations will tell you that they have chosen F1 because it is a sport which teaches people how to think and act quickly. This is a very valuable training ground. But all big corporations have politics. In order to be successful race teams need to be run by mini-dictators who do not have to worry that some slime in a suit is sliding a stiletto into their back while they are trying to win races. The only way that "corporate" race teams can work is that they are run independently of the main company. The boss can be fired if he fails to deliver but all other decisions must be left up to him. He must be the only man allowed to have a knife. There can be no factions. If a race team turns political everyone is too busy protecting their own backs to worry about winning races.

The car companies aim is to filter the racing culture through their staff but what can happens is that the corporate culture screws up the racing team. The obvious example at the moment is British American Racing which is clearly split between a number of rival factions. Until one or the other is wiped out that team is going nowhere.

Probably the best examples to date have been the way in which the Renault and Peugeot competition departments have operated in the past. Originally Renault tried to run its own team to company rules. It was a horrible and disastrous failure. Renault became an engine supplier instead and found success.

Peugeot did it the other way around. When Jean Todt was in charge at Peugeot Talbot Sport the organization was incredibly successful but when he was replaced by others the top management suddenly started getting involved and everything went wrong - and is still going wrong.

And that is why the current relationship between manufacturers and racing teams has come about. The teams are independent organizations. They can be bullied, but the political fighting stays within the car company and does not affect the racing program. It works. When Jaguar entered the World Sportscar Championship it did not try to do anything in-house. It contracted Tom Walkinshaw to do the job and dressed everyone up as if they were factory men.

One has to say that the Stewart deal with Jaguar can hardly warm the cockles of Tom Walkinshaw's heart. He and Jackie Stewart do not exactly form a mutual admiration society - even when they are on their best behavior and for Tom to see the marque with which he enjoyed such success linked up to a rival must hurt - even if he does not like to admit it.

The Jaguar which was launched in Frankfurt looked great - apart from the red and white HSBC sponsorship which just does not fit with the car - even if the 15m a year warrants the space - and there was much talk at the Nurburgring that the Jaguar color scheme may not remain green. Some twerp with a pie chart is apparently arguing that green does not look good on TV and that white is a much better color.

Maybe it is just me, but I have noticed something about motor racing over the years. Italians cheer red cars; Frenchmen like blue cars and Germans are really rather keen on silver ones. These are the old racing colors from the old days. And thus a British team, promoting a British image should run cars in green.

It would be ironic, would it not, if the Jaguars were to appear in white livery. Germany's national racing color was not silver as many people think. It was white. The Arrows were silver because not painting the cars saved weight...

Another little secret.

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