In the land of ice

It was NAMSAP time again and The Mole decided that it would be politic to attend the meeting of the North Atlantic Motor Sport Advisory Panel, rather than sending one of the Penelopes along. After the delights of Australia, The Mole found London to be freezing and reckoned that things could not be any worse in Iceland, the traditional venue for the annual meeting with "The Cousins" from Langley, Virginia. Once again they would meet in the Hotel Holt in Reykjavik. As usual NAMSAP would take place under the guise of being a convention of banana retailers.

Motor racing is not a big sport in Iceland so the chances of being recognised were low. The Hotel Holt had a nice restaurant and boasts that the Skalholtbar on the premises is "one of the best kept secrets in Reykjavik". It has a leather armchairs, a fire and a splendid selection of armagnacs and cognacs.

"My kind of place," The Mole said to Penelope (Roedean) as they flew up for the conference. She had not wanted to attend.

"Dear God," she said. "You'd go bonkers in a place like that. Reykjavik is twinned with Hull. They all drink like fish, they listen to Bjork and were recently found to be the fourth happiest nation on earth!"

"Yes, said The Mole. "Apparently this is due to the fact that a new Bjork album is due out soon."

They giggled.

"And anyway," The Mole added. "Your country needs you."

The relationship with The Cousins has been strained for a while. The growth of NASCAR is beginning to worry the folk at Trade and Industry.

"Look," said The Mole, as the first session began. "Let us cut to the chase. The chaps in Whitehall are not happy about this NASCAR expansion into Mexico and Canada."

"Hey," said The Cousin sitting next to him. "Last weekend we let you Limeys win everything at Homestead. You had Dan Wheldon win the IRL and that new kid Lloyd winning in the Indy Pro Series. We even took Montoya off your hands!

"And we're very grateful," said The Mole.

"Yeah," said another Cousin. "So grateful that you guys are coming after Marco Andretti now. We saw that Gil de Ferran (that he pronounced Jeel dee Ferran) at Homestead at the weekend. We know what he was doing."

"I can't control Honda," said The Mole. "Hell, they can barely control themselves. Surely, the Andretti thing is up to the family. Mario wants the kid to go. Michael is not sure. What would you guys do if you were Marco? What's his future? Going around in circles with the Good Old Boys and Montoya until he's 50?"

There was a pause.

"You guys have to get your billionaires under control," said Penelope. "Without that single seater racing in America will stay a mess."

"Our assessment of the situation does not correlate to that statement," said the first Cousin. "We think open-wheeler racing is in a stable condition."

"What you mean it's still dead?" said Penelope.

There was a shocked silence in the room.

"Face it, guys," she said. "It is just rich guys pumping in their own cash. You've got Tony up there in Indianapolis and Kevin & Co wherever Champ car is based. Nobody is winning. Tony is even looking at motorbikes to try to raise some more interest in Indianapolis. The 500 is shrinking fast."

"Yes," added The Mole. "And he needs the US Grand Prix more than ever before Charlotte or Daytona takes over as the US capital of motorsport."

"Frankly," said the second Cousin. "We are more worried about your Grand Prix than about our's. Those guys at Silverstone seem a little out to lunch."

The Mole paused for a moment. It was the right moment to strike.

"Well chaps, there is nothing to worry about there," he said. "The BRDC is getting over its problems of old. It really is amazing what you can do when you phase out a few old faces. I think you'll find that we have a man called Oliver Speight will soon bee sorting it all out for us."

One of the Americans wrote S-P-A-T-E? on his notepad.

"No," said The Mole. "It's S-P-E-I-G-H-T. He's a property developer from the Midlands. Based in Newcastle-under-Lyme."

"Where the coal comes from," said one of The Cousins.

The Mole smiled.

"He was one of the bidders at Silverstone a few years back when they were first talking about revamping the place. His company is called Spectre Developments. It was too small to beat the big players back then but now he has the advantage of being well-connected with the local planning authorities. From what I hear the package is pretty much in place. There are going to be new grandstands. The more people who get the more you can earn. There will be some residential development to pay for the work, plus a science park. I don't really know what a science park is but our people spotted a change of use in the planning office recently to switch from "a command centre" to "a command centre/study centre" and that is probably significant. This will help pay for new pits, a testing centre for manufacturers, plus a hotel and conference centre. These will create new sources of revenue so that the track can maximise its income all year round, which will help to offset the costs of the Grand Prix.Watch out anyway. There is a lot going on. The big advantage now is that Britain has a really big new star emerging in F1. Lewis Hamilton."

"Really?' said one of the Cousins. "Maybe we should steal him."

Penelope laughed.

"Dream on!" she said. "You can have Jacques Villeneuve and we'll sell you options on DC, Rubens, Ralf and Jarno."

March 28 2007

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