THE MOLE

The giggles

"What does it all mean?" said The Mole to no-one in particular.

It was late on Monday evening and he and his analysts were poring over the first pictures of the Jordan-Ford EJ14.

"There is not very much Benson & Hedges branding," he ventured. "I suppose if one adds the nose and the wings the deal might be worth $12m. We know that Ford is spending $5m and they don't get much space. Gametrac must have upped its money.

"But what do you make of the Trust, 04 04 04 and Lazarus things?" said Penelope (Benenden).

"I think we must assume that Jos Verstappen has signed," said Number Two, surrounded by his usual cloud of pipe smoke.

"It looks that way," said The Mole.

"The 04 04 04 thing is clearly just to fill space," said Penelope, "and I cannot find any company called Lazarus that fits the bill. I concluded that it is Eddie Jordan's idea of a joke. If you look closely there is a clover leaf next to it and the L of Lazarus has a hint of a Jordan logo about it. I think EJ is making fun of those who have written him off."

Number Two was chuckling.

"What's so funny?" said The Mole.

"Well," said Number Two, "In The Bible there were actually two chaps called Lazarus. I expect that when he was at school Jordan spent more time behind the bike sheds than he did in religion classes."

Penelope blushed.

"I expect he is talking about the Lazarus that Jesus brought back from the dead," Number Two continued, " but it might be the other one. He was a beggar who used to lie around out outside the house of a rich man, hoping to collect some of the crumbs from the rich man's table. When the beggar and the rich man both died: the beggar went to Heaven and the rich man went to Hell."

"Are you suggesting that Eddie Jordan is a beggar and Bernie Ecclestone is the rich man?" said Penelope.

The image of Eddie Jordan the beggar got into their heads and Number Two was soon laughing so hard that he nearly busted his waistcoat as he imagined Mr E sprinkling EJ with the crumbs from a croissant.

The Mole tried to ignore him.

"Don't be silly," he said, suppressing his giggles. "We all know that Bernie is God."

Penelope did not see the joke.

"Let us assume that Lazarus and 04 04 04 are filling empty spaces on the car," she said earnestly. "That means there is a question to be answered: What is Trust doing on the car?"

"No," said The Mole, pulling himself together. "There are two questions. Look who is driving the car."

"Nick Heidfeld," said Penelope.

"Where is his sponsorship?" said The Mole.

"You're right," Penelope gasped. "There isn't any!"

Number Two had by now subsided into wheezing wreck.

"I have a theory," he said quietly, trying not to look at The Mole. "I think that Heidfeld's drive is being paid for by Mercedes-Benz. Remember Nick signed up with them in 1997 when he was in Formula 3. He won the Formula 3000 title in 1999 and Mercedes then put him at Prost in 2000. You may remember at the time they were thinking of supplying Prost with engines in 2001. That never happened and Heidfeld was placed at Sauber. He was then passed over by McLaren when Kimi Raikkonen was recruited in 2002 but the link still existed. I heard that Heidfeld is still under contract to Mercedes-Benz this year.

"I think that Stuttgart was obliged to find him a drive. That would tie in nicely with the rumours that Jordan has been pushing hard to get Mercedes-Benz engines in 2005. Obviously if Ferrari is allowed to help Sauber in 2004, they cannot stop McLaren giving Jordan a more competitive package in 2005. That would be convenient because David Coulthard needs somewhere to race next year. And Benson & Hedges would love to have DC. They have been after a top British name ever since Damon Hill retired. Coulthard would be perfect. And it would help turn Jordan around."

At that moment Number Two's eyes met those of The Mole and both men began to giggle.

"So you think EJ has chosen to take Verstappen's money for a year, just to keep the team ticking over," said The Mole, trying to keep a straight face. "And he will then go for a big comeback as Jordan-Mercedes-Benz in 2005..."

As he spoke The Mole's voice went higher and higher before he lost control and collapsed into fits of giggles.

There was a pause.

"It wasn't that funny," said Penelope to no-one in particular.

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