THE MOLE

A document changes hands

The Mole's agent Dusty Road, named after an ice cream sundae at Fortnum & Mason, had been quiet for a long time but one day The Mole received a postcard addressed to Mr WH Smith at the Barristers Benevolent Association, one of his "letterboxes".

This was the signal that Dusty wanted a rendez-vous. The card had only a list of six numbers, followed by a date and a time. The Mole knew that the numbers indicated the volume, the page, the column and the line from the Yellow Pages which would indicate the address of the meeting. After decoding the message The Mole discovered that he was to meet Dusty at Getti, a fancy Italian place on Marylebone High Street, where they make a marvellous green pea-flavoured risotto. The Mole was delighted. It was a very suitable venue.

Dusty is a little paranoid and has been known to turn up at meetings wearing a fake moustache, which makes him look like a bank manager pretending to be a Mexican bandit, but on this occasion he came disguised as an American tourist, wearing a teeshirt that said simply "W rocks". He had a camera slung around his neck and a guidebook in his hand.

Where the disguise failed was that his accent was straight out of Brasenose College, Oxford, but he did not seem to think this was a problem

"So what's the scoop?" asked The Mole, as he nibbled a grissino to death.

Dusty looked around him furtively and slid a piece of paper from his pocket.

"And you didn't get this from me," he said.

"Didn't get what?" said The Mole and slipped the paper into his pocket. "I don't know what you are talking about."

The Mole guessed that it was the proposals that Max Mosley had put forward to the car manufacturers, for 2.2-litre turbo bio-diesels in 2011.

In the cab on the way back to the office he began to read the paper.

"Executive Summary," it said. "There are two principal reasons for change: (1) The need to create a healthier commercial outlook for participants by lowering their costs; and (2) the need to react to public concern about the environment.

"The FIA will use future regulations to reduce the cost of participation in Formula 1:

"Research and development relevant only to Formula 1 will be discouraged, whereas that which has relevance to road car development will be encouraged.

"New technologies in Formula 1 will come from the mainstream R&D of major manufacturers. The result will be a justifiable and mutually beneficial way to fund the main development challenge presented for Formula 1 participation.

"Combining the need to change with the policy adopted leads to objectives which appear to have broad support among the participant manufacturers: Energy efficient power-train development will be overtly encouraged; development outside the power-train will be severely constrained; waste will be reduced by an increased requirement for longevity of components.

"This strategy now needs to evolve. How far should the FIA go on each point? The main constraint will be to avoid damage to the emotional attraction of Formula One for its fan base. In particular the technical awe of Formula 1 and its sheer speed must be retained. Step one is to develop a framework for the regulations aimed at fixing the power-train. Such a framework is put forward, but at each stage guidance is sought from the manufacturers. A detailed proposal can be drawn up quickly once these points are decided upon.

"This paper focuses on the 2011 power-train regulations only, but lists implications for the chassis, bodywork and sporting rules. Today the power-train is the determining step and must be decided before the remaining regulations can be detailed."

The Mole looked out of the window at London passing by. It seemed rather more interesting than turbo bio-diesels. It was true that most of the manufacturers have such engines, but these are used to power SUVs and small trucks, rather than flashy sports cars. But that did not really matter. The Coventry Climax F1 engine started out as a fire pump and did rather well.

The important thing, he thought to himself, is that the engines sound good. Fans don't want to go to a race track to listen to something that sounds like a taxi.

The engine thing was really not the problem. The problem was hidden away in the suggestion that followed that all the Formula 1 cars should have identical aerodynamics.

"That won't do," he said out loud. "This is really just NASCAR. Silhouette racing. If that is going to be the case it would be better to stop pretending that we are at the forefront of technology and stick a body on the cars and allow them to crash into each other and be driven by drooling country boys from the Deep South and F1 rejects from Colombia. You can pull in the viewers but is that what F1 is all about?"

And then it struck him. His job was to make sure that the British motorsport industry stayed healthy and grew. Bernie Ecclestone's job was to make money for himself and his partners. Max Mosley's job was to make sure that the FIA does not become an irrelevant body. The job of the team bosses was to make winning cars, built to whatever rules were in force at a given moment.

No-one had the job of protecting the sanctity of the sport.

"No-one but the media," he said. "And where are they? Too busy having lunch."

May 18 2007

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