The glamour of Monaco and some curious stuff about Milton Keynes

Monaco GP 2007

Monaco GP 2007 

 © The Cahier Archive

Reading Mike Doodson's article about his first visit to the Monaco Grand Prix transported me back to my first visit to the principality as a motor racing reporter. It was 1984 and I was covering the Formula 3 event. Normally I lived in a tent, but the Monaco F3 paddock had no ground on which to put up such a device. I wish now that I had kept a diary, but all I have is a few notes and a lot of jumbled memories. The Monaco weekend says: "Sleeping in the Yokohama tyre truck. Adventures with Kris Nissen. Living on cigarettes."

In those days the European Formula 3 world was like a mobile village. Half the people slept in the paddock rather than in hotels, including some of the drivers.

For an English speaker the paddock revolved around Eddie Jordan Racing and Anson, Jordan's big rival, run by Gary Anderson. Jordan and Anderson were still years away from working together as team principal and technical director at Jordan Grand Prix.

There was Gerhard Berger, driving that year for Pino Trivellato but always hanging out with the folk from BMW. If you had told me then that he would end up as a Formula 1 team principal I would have jumped into the harbour. Kris Nissen, today head of Volkwagen Motorsport, was a buddy but that weekend he led me astray. Or was it vice versa? Anyway, we ended up going off to eat pizza and we drank a great deal, eventually stumbling back to the F3 paddock with the usual giggling and shhh-ing noises that one makes at such moments.

My billet was supposed to be a secret as the management of Yokohama frowned upon such things and Kris was sleeping in the Muller truck, which I remember doubled as a motorhome. This was because Cathy Muller was his girlfriend while also being one of his rivals on the race track. Cathy, the big sister of Yvan Muller, was a very good racer in her own right. She gave as good as she got and when I go to my grave and get to see my life flash before my eyes, I hope that I will get to see one of the funniest moments when Cathy and Kris went off together into the catch-fencing at the end of the main straight at Jarama, neither one willing to be the first to brake!

The morning after my night out with Kris I overslept and fell out of the truck into the lap of the boss of Yokohama - which did not go down very well. I then discovered that I was also in trouble with Cathy - for leading Kris astray!

I watched the Grand Prix in the rain, standing on the outside at the Swimming Pool. Drenched to the skin but delighted to have seen Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Stefan Bellof in what has become known as a classic event. I trudged home to the F3 paddock where VW Motorsport mechanic Bengt Hosbond (a wonderful towering Dane) said that I could use John Nielsen's bunk in the motorhome. John was not going to be needing it. He was in the hospital, having smashed himself up pretty badly in the Formula 3.


The notes go on to say that I went to Milan for a couple of days and then overnight to Vienna. I visited the Spanish Riding School because it started to rain as I was walking by and I needed somewhere to shelter. I then went behind the Iron Curtain (not an easy thing to do in those days) and was delighted to find that the Czech hotels were cheap. I ended up at the old Brno for a touring car race. After that I went to Paris and, according to my notes, "turned up on Jessica's doorstep."

Ah, what fun it all was.

In those days we all dreamed of being in Formula 1. It was a life of water fights, tyres and gear ratios. Reporting consisted of talking to all the drivers, even the rather slow French bloke who had raced motorcycles before turning to cars. He, incidentally, was recently elected the mayor of Nice, having previously served as a junior minister in the last Jacques Chirac government.

The thing that amazes me, all these years later, is what an amazing education motor racing has provided. I started out race reporting, but the job has led me off into all kinds of different worlds. I know which company has merged with which company and which political party is doing what to whom. I know about national development plans. It is all to do with motor racing and the news that it generates.

In recent weeks I have even delved into the world of sado-masochistic sex (not personally, you understand) in order to unravel the unfortunate demise of a Mr Mosley. At the moment I am busy trying to work out what MI5 knew or did not know about an apparently saucy lady called Mistress Abi who works as a professional dominatrix and even has use of a facility she calls "The House of Whispers", which is "set over two floors on the outskirts of Milton Keynes". This features a dungeon, a bondage room (inc suspension), a domestic & CP setting (I have no idea what this means but I am sure it titillates someone).

She says that her sessions are "safe, sane and consensual."

I guess that depends on your definition of sanity.

There is a lot of this scandal that I do not understand. I can grasp the concept of a bra-mounted camera but I am not sure I understand why with a business that can afford to own (or share) a den of iniquity, Mistress Abi felt the need to sell a story to the News of the World for not very much money. If you search very hard you will discover that she was a regular with an eloquently-named organisation called "Northern Spanking" and that some of the girls you see associated with that are names that were involved in the Mosley business.

It does not really make much sense that she should be betraying her customers to the News of the World.

There is also the question of the external camera, probably mounted inside a vehicle, outside the apartment. Presumably there was a cameraman as well. Now Mistress Abi may not have been working with the knowledge of her MI5 officer husband, but she does seem to have had a good understanding of techniques used in the spying world.

These sort of operations are classically known as honeytraps and there is long history of spies using them for blackmail purposes.

In the early days of the scandal Mosley said an odd thing.

"From information provided to me by an impeccable high-level source close to the UK police and security services, I understand that over the last two weeks or so, a covert investigation of my private life and background has been undertaken by a group specialising in such things, for reasons and clients as yet unknown."

Finding someone capable of doing it would not be hard. During the last 15 years the British Army has been reduced is size dramatically and there has been a marked increase in the number of companies offering professional surveillance services. Some even publicize the fact that they employ ex-SAS, SBS and 14 Int operatives. The last-named is the most interesting. It operated in Northern Ireland, employing men and women drawn from all the services. They received special training but usually served just a year or two before going back to their units. This unit has now been absorbed into the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, established in 2005.

What that means is that there are a large number of former servicemen with surveillance skills in the UK.

Oddly enough, MI5 has been recruiting a lot of these people as it builds up its strength to meet the terrorist threats of today.

The question that we all want to know the answer to is who was behind the operation.

I do not for one minute claim to know what on earth has been going on and who is responsible, but it all broadens the mind.

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