The Mole makes connections

It had been a nice quiet Tuesday until the phone call came from Italy. The Mole had taken Penelope (Roedean) out for a lunch of bangers and mash and they were pleasantly dozy when they returned to SIS headquarters. The bottle of house red might have helped in that respect.

At SIS there was much activity after the recent terrorist attacks but up in the Motor Racing and Trade Development Department, the office was quiet.

And then the phone rang.

"There is bad stuff," said The Mole's man in Maranello. "There is a McLaren connection."

The Mole was stunned.

"Don't be silly," said The Mole. "There is no way that Ron and his guys are going to mixed up in sabotage or espionage or whatever the hell it is."

"You need to start digging," said the voice. "Believe me, there is trouble."

That much was true. Not long afterwards The Mole received a press statement from McLaren, saying that "a senior member of the technical organisation" had been suspended for having received a package of Ferrari technical information at the end of April.

The Mole hit the red button on the side of his desk. There was a lot scuttling of feet outside and, one by one, the three Penelopes and Miss Pringle-Featherby (of the Berkshire Pringle-Featherbys) arrived. The latest to arrive was The Mole's Legal Counsel Norma Zaas, who had come from downstairs. She arrived with the gentle sigh of leather on linoleum.

"Right," said The Mole. "This is what we have got."

He read out the McLaren statement.

"Dear me," said Penelope (Roedean).

"Well one thing is very clear," said Norma. "McLaren is not denying that there is a problem. That means that the problem is undeniable. That being the case, the only course of action is to dump the employee to show the world that this is a private thing and that the team was not involved. And that means..."

"That Ferrari has evidence," said The Mole.

"Well, someone has evidence," said Norma. "No-one would put out a statement like that if there was not something very damning. Like a package of Ferrari technical information at the house of a McLaren employee. Something like that."

"The evidence could come from Italy," said Penelope (Wycombe Abbey) from beneath her honey-coloured bob.

"True," said Penelope (Roedean). Whoever sent the Ferrari technical information did not just stick it in an envelope and put that into the Mail Tray at Maranello, did they? Someone in the Post Room might have recognised the address when they were sticking on the stamps."

"So I guess that would mean that the police would have to have raided someone's house," said The Mole. "If a house was raided by police in Italy we would have heard about it wouldn't we?"

"Correct," said Penelope (Roedean).

"Any police raids of Ferrari employee's houses recently," said The Mole, already knowing the answer.

"Yes," said Penelope. "Nigel Stepney's apartment at Serramazzone was raided a week or so ago about that sabotage thing."

"I don't believe a word of that," said The Mole. "Maybe it was pretext to get a search."

"Absolutely not," said Norma. "It would be a crime to fabricate a criminal complaint. That would be conspiracy. And it would also be what they call a tort and that would leave Ferrari open to the world's biggest lawsuit if it was proved that such a conspiracy had occurred."

"That is impossible," said The Mole.

"So what is the evidence for sabotage?" asked Norma.

"There is none," said The Mole. "Just stories in the Italian newspapers. They must have come from somewhere because most journalists don't make this stuff up."

"Well, it sounds to me like the sabotage story was convenient and obscured the real complaint. Maybe that gave the Italians the time to get the British police to raid someone's place over here."

"Can we assume therefore that this is related to the Stepney thing?" said Penelope (Roedean).

"No," Norma shot back. "You absolutely cannot assume anything in a situation like this.

They paused for a moment.

"A police raid in England would definitely produce undeniable evidence, wouldn't it?" said Norma.

The Mole nodded.

"We need to talk to the police," said The Mole. "Get me a list of the senior technical people at McLaren and we'll send it off to Scotland Yard and see if the names match."

"You could try and see which of them know Stepney," said Norma. "If it is related to that business there would probably be a very clear link with someone. You don't send stuff like that to someone you do not trust. And in F1 you don't trust people like that unless you have been team-mates."

For the next 15 minutes there was complete quiet in the department. There was barely a shuffle of paper or the click of a mouse.

"I have a connection," said Penelope (Wycombe Abbey). "Nigel Stepney worked at Shadow from 1977 to 1980, Lotus from 1980 to 1988, Benetton from 1989 to 1991 and then after a year in Formula 3000 he went to Ferrari in 1993."

"Yes," said The Mole.

"Look," she said. "Mike Coughlan worked at Team Lotus from 1984 to 1990. That is a four-year overlap. Then he went to John Barnard's Benetton Advanced Research Group in Godalming. There is another overlap. Then he went off to Tyrrell for a year before Barnard asked him to join Ferrari Design and Development in 1993. So Stepney and he were on the same team again. A third link."

"That doesn't prove anything, " said Norma. "It is just a coincidence."

"Well, let's check out police raids in Surrey," said The Mole. "If there is a connection, we are going to find it."

July 3 2007

Click here to read previous Mole columns: The Mole Archive

Print Feature