THE MOLE

If at first you don't succeed ...

It was quiet in the Motor Racing and Trade Development Department of the Secret Intelligent Service.

Penelope (Roedean) had decided to stay in Hungary after the Grand Prix and was reported to be having a splendid (and rather cheap) time at Lake Balaton with one of her assorted Guards officers. Penelope (Cheltenham Ladies College) was tanning her classically beautiful face in the Alps, on a trip with the Schweizer Alpen-Club and Miss Pringle-Featherby (of the Berkshire Pringle-Featherbys) was down at Salcombe in Devon where lots of rather dim girls from the Home Counties gather each summer, looking for suitable chaps to improve the family gene pool.

The Mole was alone in the office with Penelope (Wycombe Abbey), who had been constrained from going on an expensive holiday because she had gone to town once to often with her Harvey Nichols Account Card and had thus volunteered to man the office during the quietest time of the year. It was her penance.

"Never mind," said The Mole when he arrived in the morning. "I'll take you out to lunch."

Penelope smiled. A free lunch was a free lunch.

The pair pottered about for a while but admitted when it came to Elevenses that there was not a lot to be done. The Mole retired to do his crossword and Penelope began reading a transcript which had arrived from Caversham about the Isle of Man Rally."

"Good Lord," said The Mole. "Things are a little desperate, aren't they?"

"It's actually quite interesting," said the voice from beneath the honey-coloured bob. "It seems that at this year's event there were representatives of the Birmingham City Council, who had turned up to watch with a view to staging a similar event in Birmingham at some point in the future."

"Thrilling," said The Mole. "I presume Lewis Hamilton will drive a Subaru."

"No, but listen to this," she said. "It says that representatives of the city council and Advantage West Midlands have signalled their intention to bring a rally event to Birmingham as early as June 2008 and if that event is successful it could lead the council to consider re-launching a SuperPrix-style race soon afterwards. What is a SuperPrix?"

The Mole smiled.

"Well, my dear," he said, "when you were sucking on lollipops in primary school, back in the 1980s, Birmingham used to hold a street race on every August Bank Holiday weekend. It was on a 2.5-mile street track and the main event was Formula 3000, the predecessor of GP2. It was a pretty big deal."

"Well, anyway, this quotes city council leader Mike Whitby refusing to rule out a return of races," she said. "He said 'I am keeping an open mind about the Super Prix'. He also said that he would consider anything that could put the city on the map. Quote: 'Sport is a formidable magnet and catalyst and any event that can be managed successfully will attract attention to the city of Birmingham. I am constantly looking at a feasible way of bringing a range of events to the city'."

The Mole was interested.

"Do you know that Birmingham is the only city in Britain which has an act of Parliament that allows racing on its streets," he said. "It really makes sense to use that. In fact if it hadn't been for bad management back in the old days it would probably still be on the calendar today. It was a big event."

"It says that they might use something called Millennium Point," said Penelope. "What's that?"

"No idea," said The Mole. "but I assume it is one of those flagship projects that cities like to have to prove they are modern and exciting. Probably an old industrial site that was redeveloped. Something like that."

The Mole stopped to ponder.

"What does Bernie Ecclestone do when he fails to achieve something in one city?" he said.

"He goes to its nearest rival," said Penelope.

"And where did he fail to get a Grand Prix?" he added.

"London," Penelope replied.

"What is the second biggest city in Britain?" said The Mole.

"Birmingham," said Penelope. "Which has an act of Parliament allowing it to host motor races on the streets."

"Bingo!" said The Mole. "I think we may have stumbled on something here. Bernie has already said that he does not want to deal with Silverstone but the old boys up there think he has no choice. Maybe he does have a choice after all."

"Golly," said Penelope.

For the next half an hour they were both busy and then The Mole called out: "Status meeting" and they met, rather breathlessly.

"Right," said Penelope. "Millennium Point is a big development designed to encourage science, technology and education in Birmingham and the wider region. It is a huge and inspiring building that incorporates a science museum, a technology innovation centre and all the rest of it. It was built on 12 acres of inner city industrial wasteland and its construction paved the way for further development in the area. It is a classic F1 kind of venue."

The Mole had spoken with Advantage West Midlands which said that it was true that it had been working with motor sport agencies and the local authorities to try to boost the profile of the motoring industry in the West Midlands. He had also discovered that three years ago the council looked at resurrecting the SuperPrix and had serious talks with an event management company called Quintus Showplace.

"Birmingham is not glamorous," said The Mole. "But there has been a lot of development and the city is actually quite nice these days. Having a race would be a good way to promote the place. Change the image completely and bring in tourists."

"Well if New Delhi is trying it, why not Birmingham," she said.

"If I remember correctly isn't there some MP from Birmingham who works as a liaison between the government of and the motorsport industry and is head of the All Party Parliamentary Motor Group and chairman of the House of Commons Motor Club?" The Mole said.

"Yes, Richard Burden," said Penelope.

There was a pause.

"All of this doesn't prove anything," said The Mole. "And, look, we have missed lunch."

"True," said Penelope, "but isn't this fun?"

August 9 2007

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