A "hush-hush" business in the West Indies

Oswald the chauffeur jinked The Mole's new Toyota Prius to avoid a rather fat lady wandering across the road, carrying too many plastic bags.

"Wake up missus!" he grumbled. "Worse than a bloody cyclist."

They were on their way to SIS headquarters in Vauxhall and The Mole was preparing himself for the year ahead.

The New Year had begun with the news that his old Jaguar was no more. It had always been a bit of a dodgy deal, involving The Mole's friends in Coventry and the Government Cars and Despatch Agency had finally put a stop to it, memo-ing something about egalitarianism when in reality it was simply because some of the ministers - the Scottish ones, no doubt - complained that it was not right that a civil servant should have a nicer car than they did. Ministers - even apparent socialists - don't like to be seen in Ford Mondeos and Vauxhall Omegas.

The choice of a Toyota over a British car was a necessary evil but, as the Prius is very environmentally-friendly, it was inevitably the car of choice in a Blairite world.

The Mole looked at his watch. His wrist was nicely tanned.

It had been a most enjoyable Christmas break.

Debriefing a NASCAR defector at a secret location in the West Indies has meant that Mrs Mole was left behind in Surrey. The Mole had explained that it was "terribly hush-hush" and that "the defence of the realm" depended on it and, being a good SIS wife, Mrs Mole has soldiered on gamely, dealing with children, grandchildren turkeys and plum puddings (not necessarily in that order).

There was talk in the village that The Mole must have run off with "one of his young women" and everyone had felt rather sorry for Mrs Mole and tut-tutted about middle aged men.

Of course, it had not been a holiday. The biggest problem had been understanding the NASCAR man (who must remain nameless) because The Mole soon concluded that it was not simply a question of different accents and that they were actually talking a completely different language.

"I think I shall write an English-American Dictionary," he complained one day.

Eventually things settled down and they fell into a pleasant routine, spending the mornings going over all the NASCAR secrets and the afternoons, because it got rather hot, at the swimming pool where The Mole (and all the other man present, come to that) enjoyed watching Penelope (Roedean) prancing around in a rather skimpy bikini. There were occasional banana daiquiris to help cool things down. And, as no-one was allowed to leave the compound, there were one or two rather good dinners, prepared by a very handy chef.

The NASCAR information had been interesting but had failed to answer the important question: when was the invasion coming?

The Mole knew that there was little that could be done to stop an invasion, if NASCAR one days decides to attack into Europe, but is very keen to work out ways in which the British motor racing industry can strengthen itself by embracing the invader.

"The way things are going," said Penelope one day down by the pool. "NASCAR will soon have more technology in the cars than F1 will. There must be an opportunity there."

"I think that some of the teams should talk to NASCAR about running their operations for them," said The Mole, admiring what he presumed was a diamond navel ring. "That way they can maintain their growth no matter what happens in F1 and, at the same time, have a foot in both camps."

"A bit like teams running both GP2 and A1 Grand Prix operations," asked Penelope, wrinkling her sun-freckled nose.

The Mole nodded.

There was a pause as they mulled over the waves running up the nearby beach.

"You know," The Mole said. "I cannot remember when I was last so excited about a new F1 season. I think it will be splendid. I am really looking forward to all these new kids taking F1 by storm. I am a little weary of all the politicking we have had in recent years. I am sure there will be plenty more but right now things are calm and the sport is the important bit."

"Well, I suppose there could be arbitration over the question chassis," said Penelope, lying back and wriggling her toes. "But I don't think so. My feeling is that the next big fight will be over the definition of a constructor. The FIA seems to be moving towards the idea of giving the manufacturers a World Championship, which is fine if you are a manufacturer but not at all what the constructor teams will want to see.

"The FIA says it will defend the privateers," said The Mole.

Penelope laughed.

"I cannot imagine it will be much fun being a privateer in the modern age," said The Mole. "I think if I was running such a team I would cash in my chips and retire. I might even come here."

"Yes," said Penelope, "but some of those F1 chaps will have trouble leaving the spotlight. They like to see their name in lights all the time."

"An ego thing," said The Mole. "Still, I think we will see one or two of them disappearing soon. I get the feeling that Ron Dennis is now in the home stretch and looking forward to a life outside F1. From what I hear he is spending a lot of time shooting these days. Knows all about Purdeys and Labradors."

"Ghastly business," said Penelope.

"And old Jean Todt seems to be getting ready for retirement - whatever that may bring."

"And what about old Flav?" said Penelope. "He loves the limelight but I hear Renault might squeeze him out if things don't go well this year."

"Well, I have heard it said," muttered The Mole. "But these corporate types are strange animals."

"Yes," said Penelope. "That's enough about Toyota."

"And the pressure has got to be on for some of the others as well," said The Mole.

"About the only thing you can actually rely on is that Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head will still be there at the end of the year," said Penelope.

"True," said The Mole. "But they are not going to like a Manufacturers' title, are they?"

Penelope giggled.

"I can hear Patrick from here," she said. "A gentle hint on the breeze."

"Well it's only 3000 miles away," said The Mole.

January 2 2007

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