THE MOLE

Hogey bared

The Mole dropped into the office on Saturday morning, intending to go quickly through his post while the office was quiet and then jump into a taxi and rush from Vauxhall to Fortnum & Mason for "a date" with Mrs Mole. The plan was to meet up and have an expensive lunch (and a bottle or two of claret) in the St James Restaurant on the fourth floor and then go for a post-prandial stroll along Jermyn Street and down into St James Park. It had all sounded rather splendid but no sooner had The Mole settled at his desk than the telephone rang and a voice said: "Hogan is going to Jaguar".

For a moment The Mole thought it was a joke for he could not understand why Paul Hogan, otherwise known as Crocodile Dundee, would be visiting Milton Keynes. His confusion lasted only a split second but it was long enough for the caller to hang up and so The Mole was unable to ask any questions.

John Hogan, or Hogey as he is known in Formula 1 circles, is not related to Crocodile Dundee although both came originally from Australia. The suggestion that John and Paul may be related irritates the former. The latter's views on the subject are not known.

The Mole thought about the news for a moment or two and then knew that it had to be true. Indeed it was an inspired choice for a team which is not famous for making inspired choices. Hogan will bring to Jaguar not only enormous experience in F1 but also all the right connections and good old-fashioned credibility. Hogan knows how to play the game. When he makes a phone call everyone in F1 takes his call.

Unless, of course, they have not heard of him.

For 30 years Hogan has been the lowest of the low profilers in Formula 1, making the reclusive Paddy McNally look like a drum-beating self-publicist and the Johnnies-come-lately, claiming to be F1 experts, could easily have missed him. The Mole was horrified last year when he read one article in a glossy F1 magazine, purporting to list the 100 most influential people in the sport, which seemed to have overlooked Hogan.

The Mole's memory blurs around the 25-year mark and so to refresh it he immediately rang down to The Morgue (the archive department in the basement) and asked Schmutzli the archivist (who never goes home) for everything he had on Hogan. A burly security man later delivered a large file and The Mole began to trawl through it, wondering whether Mrs Mole would be very upset that he was going to miss their rendezvous at Fortnums.

As Mrs Mole does not believe in mobile communications The Mole concluded that the best thing was to call the restaurant and ask to speak to her. She was, sadly, not very happy but apparently made up for her disappointment by having a very large (and very expensive) lunch and on the way out stopped in the antiques department and bought a very expensive piece of illuminated medieval manuscript, which looks somewhat out of place in her boudoir at Mole Manor.

As he read The Mole began to remember some of Hogan's achievements. There was a time when Enzo Ferrari used to laugh at commercial sponsorship, saying that "my cars don't smoke" but in 1978 Gilles Villeneuve raced his Ferrari with a Marlboro sticker on his helmet and for 19 years after that Hogan was the man who gently edged Marlboro into partnership with the Italian team. In 1996 it was Hogan who switched the Marlboro money from McLaren to Ferrari. Sixteen years earlier it was Hogan who had created the Marlboro McLaren team in its modern form. The relationships involved actually stretched back to 1973 but in 1980 Hogan was the man who brokered the deal between McLaren and Project 4, the team that Marlboro was supporting in Formula 2 at the time. It was this "merger" which brought Ron Dennis into F1 as a team owner. It was not Ron's first attempt at being a team boss because back in 1971 Dennis and Neil Trundle were Brabham mechanics with big ambitions and has started a company called Rondel Racing.

Hogan was the marketing manager.

Rondel went under in 1973 and so Hogan went off to join Marlboro and gradually took over the whole Marlboro sponsorship programme in motor racing, picking up the best talent before it ever reached F1 and putting together good teams and good drivers. When in 1981 Niki Lauda decided that he wanted to make his F1 comeback he did not go to see Bernie Ecclestone. He went to Hogan. It was Hogan who funded the greatest-ever Formula 1 duo: Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, who won 15 out of 16 races in 1988.

And it is Hogan who has sat on the F1 Commission since it was established representing the interests of the big sponsors.

But the thing that interested The Mole enough for him to miss lunch with Mrs Mole was not Hogan's history but rather trying to figure out how it is that Hogan has got the job. Somebody somewhere had come up with the idea but the question was who? And whether or not there are any hidden agendas involved.

Could it, thought The Mole, have been Sir Jackie Stewart? He has known Hogan for years and indeed Hogan sits on the board of Jackie's Mechanics' Trust charity. Stewart still has clout in Detroit.

Could it have been Dennis, hoping to strengthen the calibre of the players in the GPWC camp?

Or could it have been Bernie Ecclestone, looking for a job to keep Hogan "warm" until another job, such as running the entire sport, might come along?

There are not many people who are universally respected in Formula 1 and almost none of them are currently team bosses. But Hogan can deal with the teams just as he can deal with the manufacturers. And even the big commercial banks.

It was evening before The Mole departed Vauxhall and headed home to Surrey.

And he still did not know the answer.

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