THE MOLE

Birdwatching

Mrs Mole could not sleep. The Mole, being helpful, got her rather merry on brandy and when that failed to send her off, he went to the library and returned with a copy of Richard Brown's 1905 classic, "A Short History of Accounting and Business".

"There you go," he said. "Four hundred and fifty pages about the world's second dullest occupation. That should send you off to sleep without a problem."

"Second dullest?" asked Mrs Mole, wearily.

"Birdwatching," said The Mole and went to sleep.

Mrs Mole read and read. Accountancy, she discovered, was fascinating but when she tried to explain how exciting it was over breakfast The Mole simply said "Yes dear" and went back to reading the Daily Telegraph.

"The problem," she said. "Is that accountants are not very good at public relations."

"Yes dear," said The Mole. "Have a nice day. I must be off to save the nation."

"Yes dear," said Mrs Mole.

The drive to the office was pleasant to begin with. Autumn had come to Surrey and the trees in the lanes were a beauty to behold.

"Very nice, innit?" said Oswald the chauffeur, with his usual poetic touch.

Then they were over the M25 and into the suburbs and The Mole lost interest and began thinking about public relations and Formula 1. Bernie likes making money and does not really care what the world thinks about him. Ron Dennis is entirely the opposite: he wants to be able to control opinions; Jean Todt on the other hand does not seem to mind that he is seen as a cross between Napoleon Bonaparte and an earthworm and reckons, if indeed he even thinks about it, that history will relate that he was a genius.

And then, thought The Mole, there is Craig Pollock. He must be worrying about his image these days. Jacques Villeneuve has no drive for next year and Craig has hired a sports marketing firm called Slam Management to raise $5m in sponsorship to help Jacques buy the second seat at Jaguar Racing in 2004. Alas, Slam cannot find the money.

As Oswald the chauffeur twirled the Mole's Jaguar through the back streets of some dreary suburb, The Mole considered the situation at Jaguar Racing. Red Bull is happy to pay for the engine cover of the Jags, but wants Christian Klien to partner Mark Webber. Jaguar Racing doesn't think that Klien has enough experience and want a safer bet. Alexander Wurz is an Austrian and he has a cheque for $5m from Superfund to get him the drive. But the money is useless because HSBC will not have another financial company involved. Jaguar has tried to suggest to Red Bull that Wurz drive and Klien do a year of testing and then the youngster could be ready to replace Webber when he goes off to Renault at the end of 2004. That would leave Red Bull with two Austrians for 2005 and then they could start feeding their young Americans into the system in 2006.

But none of this leaves any room for Villeneuve, thought The Mole. Surely, Villeneuve would be good for Red Bull. He's sort of cool in a scruffy way and he's a big name in the US.

Somewhere in Streatham The Mole's mobile rang. His F1 agent Dusty wanted a meeting at 10. The time was enough to tell him the venue. They would meet at opening time of the National Gallery, in Room 51 of the Sainsbury Wing, a dark corner where Leonardo da Vinci's Cartoon was housed.

Oswald dropped The Mole off outside. The National Gallery was deserted.

"We need to talk about New York," Dusty said in the darkness. "Bernie was there last week. He was supposed to be in India for the Afro-Asian Games but called off because of some important business commitment. And then he went off to New York, apparently on a joyride on Concorde."

"What are you trying to say?" said The Mole.

"I think Bernie had business in New York," said Dusty. "And I hear that Ken Podziba, the Sports Commissioner of the New York City, has been going around saying that the city is actively looking at staging a motor race, as part of the city's drive towards getting the Olympic Games in 2012. Podziba said that his people are actively looking at potential venues."

"A street race is never going to work," said The Mole. "A parkland circuit might. Bernie has always wanted a race in New York and had one planned at Flushing Meadow in 1983 until he had to call it off at the last minute because of the threat of a last-minute injunction. He kept trying until around 1985 but by then CART had got a race going in Meadowlands. It was a flop and an attempt by CART to switch to a street race in Manhattan in 1992 also failed."

"What other choices are there?" said Dusty.

"Back in 1983 Mr E looked at Roosevelt Field. It was an old racing circuit on Long Island from the 1930s. It had been converted to horse-racing. But they tore that down in 2000 and built a shopping mall."

"And Flushing Meadow?" said Dusty.

"It is the obvious place," said The Mole. "It used to be the site of the World Fair and is now a big park with the National Tennis Center (where they hold the US Open each summer) and Shea Stadium, the home of the Mets. It is a nice park. Air traffic from La Guardia goes straight over the top so there is no problem with noise."

"There is also a place called Floyd Bennett Field," said Dusty. "A deserted Naval Air Station on a sort of island in Jamaica Bay, not far from JFK Airport. It has good access and miles of empty roads and runways. But there are a bunch of bird-watchers in residence."

"Very dull," said The Mole. "Enough to send anyone to sleep."

Click here to read previous Mole columns: The Mole Archive

Print Feature