THE MOLE

Microwave technology

The Mole was chatting the other day at The Club with Sir Dickie Dearlove (known to his friends as "C") about the good old days when espionage was a political business and they used to work undercover in such intriguing spots as Nairobi, Prague, Paris and, in particular, Geneva. Sir Dickie and The Mole did a lot together before the budgetary cuts came along and The Mole was put in charge of the Motor Racing and Tinpot Dictator Department (MRTDD).

Dickie went right to the top and became Sir Dickie.

The Mole has never been a great believer in all the new-fangled technology which there is these days. He has even been known to try to change TV channels using his mobile phone. This is odd considering that spying is a high technology business although The Mole thinks there is a good comparison to Bernie Ecclestone, as he is famously unimpressed with all things gizmo-like.

Sir Dickie is even worse. He is never happier than when reading the reports from his old-fashioned, revolver-in-hand kind of agents, who use dead letter boxes and contacts called Boris.

"Humint," he says. "Not sigint! A spy on the ground is worth two with a dish."

For those not versed in this sort of talk sigint is intelligence gathered by satellite, humint is gathered by humans.

Not long after this conversation The Mole's Chief Technical Officer, known in Vauxhall as MRTDD-C2 (but known to his friends as Nigel) requested an interview. His memo said that he wished to talked about microwaves.

Microwaves are not The Mole's favourite subject.

Mrs Mole has never quite recovered from the occasion when she tried to dry off her favourite West Highland White Terrier after a walk in the long grass and popped cuddly little Walkinshaw into the microwave. Thankfully Pollock and Stewart, her two other West Highland Whites, have now got over the shock although down at Mole Manor, the microwave has gone and all cooking is now done in copper saucepans, as recommended by Anne Willan of the Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris.

Mrs Mole will not listen when people tell her that her television emits more radiation than the microwave oven although Pollock and Stewart are not allowed to watch as much television as they used to.

The Mole did not wish to appear to be a fool and so before his meeting with Nigel did a little background reading on microwave technology. This had to be done in WH Smith's because Mrs Mole will have no mention of microwaves in the house. The Mole concluded that Nigel was not there to talk about cooking as the idea of culinary artists in F1 using such ghastly machines seemed unlikely. It was then that The Mole discovered about things called Microwave Circuits which allow all kinds of messages to be sent backwards and forwards, without injuring any dogs at all.

It was while reading all this that The Mole realised that Eddie Baker's mobile television centre, known as Bakersville, is the perfect place for a listening centre to be established. It is grey, guarded and could easily pick up all the mobile phone conversations in any of the Formula 1 paddocks. It could, if someone wanted it to be, act as the listening service of Formula 1.

Formula 1 spies rely almost entirely on humint and gather it by chatting to those involved in the sport. There is almost no obvious sigint, although apparently in Spa all the TVs in the Media Centre went berserk just before the race began when illegal radio traffic from somewhere scrambled the settings.

The Mole concluded that sigint was what Nigel wanted to discuss and prepared himself to explain that what was needed were recording devices to monitor all paddock mobile calls and text messages. The team bosses these days no longer bother with meetings but rather sit in their motorhomes and phone one another on highly unsecured mobile telephones (when not trying to use them to change the TV channels). The Mole expected that one or two of the top men have scrambled mobiles just in case anyone is listening but the rest of them talk openly. That kind of sigint would be invaluable to The Mole organisation.

Nonetheless The Mole was rather nervous as the microwave meeting approached.

Nigel rushed in, late as usual, and his hair as wild as an aerodynamicist's.

"I want to talk about microwaves," he declared.

"Yes," said The Mole with all the slickness of a Civil Service mandarin. "I have been thinking about capturing microwave communications."

"Eh?" said Nigel, rubbing his chin. "I want to talk about cooking."

The Mole thought of the demise of poor half-baked Walkinshaw and found his upper lip wobbling slightly. Fortunately Nigel was talking ten to the dozen and did not notice.

"The thing is," he said. "It seems that these tyre companies have come up with a new idea to get tyres properly heated before they are used. Those tyre blankets are very basic and the heat is not uniform. Down in Clermont Ferrand they think that this might be one of the reasons that the tyres are not working as well as they should do. Those Bridgestones are remarkable, aren't they? The Michelins are good in the heat but we've had a lousy summer and... Anyway, one of our boffins in the supply trade has picked up a strange order for industrial-sized microwave ovens which has been made by a racing company. When we heard this we concluded that these are going to be used to zap tyres.

"The word on the street is that very soon there will be a very secretive and exclusive test at Silverstone at which a team will try cooking its Michelins.

"The interesting thing is how they will get over the wheel rim issue because microwaves do not like metal objects. But if that problem can be fixed and the tyre heating proves to be effective teams will have to have specially listening devices up and down the pits to pick up the quiet "ping" noises when the tyres are properly cooked. This will give rivals the first hint that a pit stop is coming."

"How big are these microwaves?" The Mole asked.

"Oh," said Nigel. "I don't know. Big enough for a person to get into, I guess."

The Mole sighed.

Hopefully, he thought, the team bosses will not wander into them by accident.

Poor Walkinshaw. He didn't deserve that.

Click here to read previous Mole columns: The Mole Archive

Print Feature