THE MOLE

Clipping the Celtic Fringe

Now that the kids have grown up, Mrs Mole keeps herself busy with charity functions, garden parties and occasional shopping trips to Bath or Cheltenham. Life is all about roses and remembering the birthdays of the ever-expanding troop of grandchildren. In some ways Mrs Mole misses having younger folk around her and, now and then, when she and The Mole have a lunch party on a Sunday she invites one of The Mole's operatives to join them. The four Penelopes are an interesting crew. Mrs Mole's favourite is Penelope (Benenden), the quiet one who does the research. Their friendship blossomed after Mrs Mole discovered one day, while they were picking flowers in the garden at Mole Manor, that Penelope's heart was set on Max Mosley, the President of the FIA.

"Never mind, dear," she said. "That's not very practical. What I would do is get to see a few horse races and eventually you'll run into some young blade who will keep you in the style to which you ought to be accustomed."

"Do you think so?" said Penelope, with some excitement.

After that Penelope became a regular at racecourses all across the Home Counties, her preference obviously being Ascot, Newbury and Royal Windsor. Her favourite week of the year became Royal Ascot in June and she could be seen each day hanging out in the Royal Enclosure with a spectacular hat, keeping her eyes peeled among the top hats for Mr Right. A side-effect of this was that she met a number of Irishmen and several sheikhs.

"You know," she said to The Mole, when the news about Jordan Grand Prix being sold first emerged. "This is all about horses."

The Mole looked puzzled.

"Well, you see," she said. "The Dubai princes, the Al Maktoums, are all mad about the nags and that has got them mixed up with the Coolmore Mafia."

"The what?" said The Mole.

"The Coolmore Mafia," she repeated. "They are the Irish guys. One of them owns a big stud farm called Coolmore and that is why they are called the Coolmore Mafia. The two big names in that group are John Magnier and JP McManus. They've been doing business with the sheikhs for years, selling one another horses and sending the mares around to the stud for servicing."

The Mole raised an eyebrow.

"Anyway," said Penelope, moving swiftly on, "a few years ago there was talk that the Al Maktoums might buy into Manchester United, the soccer club which the Coolmore Mafia controls. I reckon the Jordan thing is a similar story. McManus and Magnier own about 49% of Jordan and EJ is a sort of junior member of their group.

"I guess he's not rich enough," said The Mole.

"Anyway the Coolmore Mafia would turn a decent profit selling the team to the Al Maktoums."

"Why would they want it?" said The Mole.

Penelope shrugged.

"I don't know," she said. "All I know is that there is a company called Grand Prix Investments which will own the team. The factory will stay in Europe and the head office will be in Dubai. The team will be rebranded and relaunched in time for next season."

"You know what I think," said Number Two, from behind his habitual cloud of pipe smoke.

"I think we are about to see Jordan become the Victory Team."

"The what?" said Penelope.

"The Victory Team," said Number Two. "About 15 years ago these Al Maktoums guys started investing in powerboat racing. By the mid-1990s they were winning everything. The team promotes Dubai and now they have been so successful they are starting to cash in as well. They have started a boat-building business for the sport and for commercial vehicles such as patrol boats and they are expanding on the precision engineering stuff as well. I read somewhere that Victory Team is now manufacturing parts for one of the car companies. They want to build up a car industry.

"Anyway," he went on. "The Victory Team is also going into merchandising and are planning to open a chain of merchandise stores in the Middle East and in Europe.

"My bet is that Jordan will become known as Victory Team and they'll paint the cars blue. It's a nice colour, actually."

There was a pause.

"Oh," Number Two added, "I forgot to mention, they have a pretty strong alliance with BMW, which goes back about five years when Victory Team started using BMW engines. Some twit with a pigtail told me that they all share the same brand values. Victory Team is clever because it is seen as being an Arab team but it is run by a bloke called Gianfranco Venturelli and the design boss is an American called Michael Peters."

"I think I am getting the picture," said The Mole. He looked out of the window and closed the file on his desk marked "Silverstone".

"Well," he said. "It is all rather more interesting than this. I really am bored of listening to Bernie Ecclestone and Jackie Stewart being rude to one another. Still, I guess it would have been fun to see Bernard wrap Jackie's kilt around his head."

"Trews," said Number Two. "Jackie wears trews, not a kilt. Gentlemen wears trews."

"I guess that's why the Scots are famous for kilts," said The Mole.

"Did you know," Number 2 went on. "In 1746 Parliament passed a law called The Act for the Abolition and Proscription of Highland Dress, which banned Scotsmen from wearing tartan. If you got caught once you'd be thrown in prison for six months. If you were caught twice you'd be transported beyond the seas, there to remain for the space of seven years."

The Mole smiled.

"D'you know I think we have a solution to the Silverstone problem. Can you get me Max Mosley's number. Perhaps we can have tartan banned in F1."

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