The Penelopes try rough trade
MAY 2, 2005
There have been rumours of change at Woking for some time and The Mole decided that it was time to get down to business and find out what was happening at McLaren. The problem is that Ron Dennis's Super Bunker, otherwise known as The McLaren Technology Centre, is a difficult place to break into. It is sunk into the ground for ecological reasons and has a large lake acting as a moat on one side and tightly-controlled entrances on the other.
Thankfully a public footpath used to cut across the site and, although rerouted, it still gives access to the back of the McLaren property, down by the Mill Bourne. To keep out the hoi polloi the landscape gardeners had decided to construct a ha-ha at the edge of the McLaren land, so as not to ruin the view with barbed wire and gun towers. This makes it very difficult for an outsider to breach the perimetre. However, The Mole's surveillance team was soon inside and hid for some days between the Turkish hazels, Norwegian Maples, White Stemmed Himalayan Birchs and Scots Pines (specially selected to provide an ever changing, year round display of trees for the McLaren workers) and were able to monitor activity thanks to the 11m high glass windows of the "showcase of industrial architecture for the 21st century".
"If someone goes to the khazi you can see most of it from out there," muttered one of the watchers when reporting back to The Mole. "But the only thing you can hear is copulating rabbits."
The Mole raised an eyebrow.
The Mole decided it was time for what the Americans like to call Humint which, in American jargon means Human Intelligence. In English it means that you send a couple of your operatives down to the pub. The Mole despatched two of the Penelopes (in short skirts) to Sands, a recently-revamped public house located near the McLaren factory. Their cover story was that they were nice girls from Ascot looking for some rough trade.
Their job was the purloin information from passing McLaren employees.
"It used to be called The Bleak House," reported Penelope (Wycombe Abbey), "and did you know that they think the pub inspired Charles Dickens's book?"
The Mole was not impressed.
"What else did you find out?" he asked.
"I got pawed by some chap who seemed to be some sort of aerodynamicist," scowled Penelope (Cheltenham Ladies College).
"Are you sure he wasn't from the marketing department?" cross-examined Penelope (Roedean). "Some of those chaps are experts at pawing!"
"No," said Penelope. "He was definitely one of those sad engineering types. He wanted to talk to someone and impress me with his importance."
"Yes, that's true," said Penelope (Wycombe Abbey). "He even bought her a drink."
"Blimey," said Penelope (Roedean). "It must be love."
"Anyway," continued Penelope (Cheltenham Ladies College), "he said that a big change is coming."
"Really?" said The Mole.
"Apparently, they have gone a bit socialist down there and decided to get rid of all the elitist job titles. He was waffling on about something called matrix management and stuff like that and said that in a matrix everyone is important so, in reality, he was really the second most important person in the company."
"Wow," said Penelope (Roedean), "that must have got you all hot and bothered."
Penelope (Cheltenham Ladies College) decided to ignore the remark.
"It seems that all the technical directors are leaving," she went on. "Now everything will be run by engineering directors. That goes for Woking and Mercedes Ilmor as well. The bloke said that Adrian Newey is off to play with old cars and he said something about Mario Illien starting his own bank. I think that was a joke."
The Mole nodded.
"Just got paid off by DaimlerChrysler," he said. "And he comes from Switzerland."
"Anyway," Penelope went on, enjoying the spotlight. "Some chap called Paddy Lowe is going to be the grand fromage in Woking."
"Used to be at Williams," said The Mole. "Computer boffin."
"And there was some guy called Nick the Greek?" said Penelope.
"Tombazis," said The Mole. "Nikolas, with a K. Ferrari aerodynamics chap. Used to be at Benetton before that. I think he was an Imperial College type. Is he the chief designer?"
"No," said Penelope. "It was some other daft title like Vehicle Interface Director."
"And what did he say about Ilmor?" asked The Mole.
"He did tell me the name but I've forgotten. It was German. And he designs diesel engines. And then he grabbed my bum and tried to stick his tongue down my throat."
"Probably did you some good," said Penelope (Roedean).
The Mole missed the dirty looks that were exchanged between the girls.
"Some German diesel guy?" he mused.
"Duesmann," said Penelope (Wycombe Abbey). "I don't remember the first name but I did overhear that bit. I think he's the new Mario Illien. Maybe his first name was Markus."
"Markus Duesmann," said The Mole. "Never heard of him."
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