The Colonel and his theories

"It is about time this spying scandal was over," said The Colonel, as he munched happily on a bacon and marmalade sandwich which Mrs Batty had somehow rustled up for him when he arrived unexpectedly, just after The Mole had finished his lunch.

They were in the dining room. The Mole was staring out at the rain, which had not really stopped since April. The Colonel was seated at the long mahogany dining table using The Mole's best Royal Doulton (the Rhodes pattern which, alas, has now been discontinued). Mrs Batty had also managed to supply The Colonel with a Waterford crystal tumbler filled with a rather good Taunton cider.

"England, our England," said The Mole sadly. "What a miserable summer."

The Colonel ignored him and took a big slurp of the cider.

"I mean," he said. "It was good to have this scandal going on for a while, something to keep the sport in the newspapers, but now the whole business really needs to be knocked on the head before it gives Formula 1 a bad name?"

"What about the truth?" said The Mole. "Don't you think it is right that the truth be told."

"The truth, Dear Mole, is the first victim in any war," said The Colonel. "You know that. Your business is to present everything in the best possible light for your leader."

"Oh," said The Mole. "Is that what I do? I thought I was a public servant."

The Colonel went blithely on.

"Don't think that Formula 1 is anything other than war without the bangs and the flashes," he said. "It would not surprise me if teams started to send infiltrators into one another's camps before too long."

"They probably have already," said The Mole, with a sigh.

"Well," he added, "The Italians have certainly made the most of all the allegations against McLaren. But let's face it, if there was any real evidence to back up all the hearsay I would have thought that Ferrari would have taken McLaren to court by now. Come to think of it, I don't really understand why the Coughlan business is not a criminal charge. The evidence is apparently there and when there was all that business with Toyota Ferrari went straight to the police in both Italy and Germany, so why have they not done that in this case?"

"I guess they want some money back," said The Colonel. "What happened to the two Italian guys? They got suspended sentences that they are appealing. That must have cost Ferrari a lot of money and achieved nothing much. So what is the point of criminal action?"

The Mole nodded.

"The real punishment is the publicity, isn't it?" he said.

The Colonel nodded.

"I tell you what," he said, chewing another mouthful of his sandwich. "There are lots of unanswered questions in all of this and I think as defender of the British motorsport industry, you should be out there asking questions."

"I hate to disillusion you," said The Mole, "but MPs ask questions. Spooks are supposed to keep a low profile."

The Colonel ignored him again.

"The thing that strikes me about this business is that Nigel Stepney said that he knows where the bodies are buried at Ferrari," he said. "What bodies are those? And what kind of things have forced a previously loyal Ferrari employee of many years standing to talk about what he thinks are dangerous dark secrets? What is his motivation in all of this? Clearly he is not a fool. He did a huge amount for Ferrari but what did they do to him to drive him to send warnings to McLaren about how Ferrari was using a loophole in the regulations? Why was he doing that?"

"It all smells to me like a packet of prawns that has been in the post for a couple of weeks," The Colonel went on. "You probably don't want to open that package."

"Come to think of it, " The Mole added. "We have heard all this talk of how Stepney and Coughlan were going to take a group of engineers to Honda. Who were the others? And what do they know of this affair? I hear that there were four from Ferrari, including Stepney and two from McLaren, Coughlan being one of them."

"Presumably this group would have had access to data at Ferrari and at McLaren," said The Colonel. "Well, you do have to ask if information from one team appears in Coughlan's house, might it be possible that there is information from the other team as well?"

"It's possible," said The Mole.

"Who would know?" said The Colonel. "The people with the search warrant. So, in theory at least, Ferrari could have a bunch of McLaren data!"

"Now you are getting silly," said The Mole.

"Yes, but it is possible," said The Colonel.

"And it is possible to put a man on Mars or that Ferrari leaked the affadavit to the Italian press, but you cannot prove a word of it. Can you?"

The Colonel shrugged.

"That is the problem with this whole affair," said The Mole. "Everyone has an opinion but very few people have the facts. I don't know all the facts. The affadavit was interesting enough but that is just one person's view of the facts as he sees them. Truth means different things to different people. The one thing that I do know in this affair is that Ron Dennis is honest. He may have any number of annoying habits and he may be a deeply odd person but if Ron says something is true, then as far as I am concerned it is true. And anyone who thinks otherwise does not know Ron very well."

The Colonel had stopped talking. His mouth was open.

"Sorry," said The Mole. "But there are some things that just get me ranting."

July 26 2007

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