The Mole goes motoring

After the FIA decision in December not to punish Renault F1, The Mole was rather demotivated by the Grand Prix world. It just did not seem right. At the same time the Human Resources people sent him a memo insisting that he had to use up so many days of holiday by such-and-such a date and he announced to the girls that he was going to go on holiday, leaving the department in the safe, and very well-manicured fingers, of Penelope (Roedean). He would return, he said, when all his holiday time had been used up.

To his surprise he found that he did not go back to Vauxhall Cross until after the New Year. And he felt better for it.

He had considered a trip to the West Indies; thought wistfully of skiing in the Americas; and even considered (albeit briefly) a trip to Lapland before settling a quieter time in rural Surrey in the company of Mrs Mole, several snotty grandchildren, Christmas trees, carols, cards, cakes and a rather splendid pot of jam called "Christmas", which is produced by Wilkin & Sons of Tiptree in Essex. This proclaims itself to be "The Original Spiced Fruit Christmas Conserve".

One morning as he took a little Christmas on toast he told the grandchildren that "it really does taste like Christmas".

His grandchildren giggled, imagining, as children do, that Christmas on toast involved the need to squish Santa Claus and his reindeer in very large mincing machines.

The Mole smiled benignly and retired to the library, where no children set foot, for fear of acquiring any knowledge.

It was good to get away from the world and The Mole was blissfully free to potter about the house and go for drives in his Alvis TF21. He missed the camaraderie of the office and the fragrant Penelopes but wintry drives in the country were just the tonic he needed. He stopped to collect holly and ivy, and even a little mistletoe, and enjoyed several hot lunches in snug little pubs.

Now and then his thoughts would switch back to racing and he hoped that 2008 would be a happier year.

One day, for no reason he could ascertain, The Mole decided while musing over a map of southern England that he would visit Tiptree, where Christmas comes in jam jars, and see if there was anything interesting. It was, he admitted to himself, a strange thing to do but it was a part of the country which he had never visited.

He might have pootled around the M25 but decided that this could wait for the return journey and, to avoid the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone's Congestion Charge, he skirted around the south of the city through places like Balham and Catford until he reached the Blackwall Tunnel and there crossed the Thames and picked up the A12, one of the old main roads of his youth, that leads from London to Great Yarmouth. As the road skirted around the marshes at Stratford The Mole remembered that this was where the London Olympic Games of 2012 is to be held. It looked rather drab.

There followed a seemingly endless series of dull suburbs before finally he arrived at the M25 and the open countryside. The signposts of England are always amusing and he enjoyed such delightful placenames as Pilgrims Hatch, Wickham Bishops, Gamble Green and, of course, Tollehunt Knights, Tollehunt D'Arcy and Tollehunt Major. Tiptree itself was rather a disappointment and after a quick tour of the town The Mole decided to let the road take him wherever it wanted to. It gave him time to think.

He thought of the Olympic Games and how unfair it was that the British government will not help Formula 1. And he thought of the uncertain future of Silverstone. Was there a solution?

There had been much talk in the newspapers about what would happpen to the Olympic facilities once the Games are over in 2012. The Olympic Park is being built on 500 acres of contaminated and derelict land by the Olympic Delivery Authority, a company that has committed itself to creating "a sustainable legacy" after the Olympics leave town. If all goes to plan the Olympic Park will boast several sports stadiums plus all manner of shops, restaurants, offices, an International Broadcast Centre and a Press Centre. The Olympic Village will become new housing.

The Mole remembered reading somewhere that the park will be largely a pedestrian facility - it is more environmentally-friendly. But he also remembered seeing a map that showed a network of service roads and wondered if perhaps one day these could provide the framework for a future racing circuit. That was what was done in Montreal to create the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve back in the 1970s and there has been talk of a similar ideas in Sydney, Greece and Beijing. So why not London as well?

The Mole mused on. For a start the Olympic Park is private land so there would be no need for any act of Parliament to allow motor racing, which is banned on the public highways in the UK. The planning process calls for the Olympic facilities to be used to keep the UK as a world-leading sporting nation, continue the transformation of East London, demonstrate to the world that the UK is creative in its thinking and inspire future generations to get involved. A Grand Prix would fit in with all of that.

The big question was really whether or not London would be interested in paying for a Grand Prix. It would, of course, generate large amounts of income for the area and keep London in the international limelight. London is in the process of changing as well as in May Livingstone faces an election and may lose to Boris Johnson, an eccentric but strong challenger. Livingstone is famous for his environmental causes and while Johnson may have similar ideas he is likely to look at the business opportunities as well.

He made a mental note to keep an eye open for any signs of Bernie Ecclestone talking to the London people. Mr E has run out of patience with Silverstone which seems to be stuck in a situation in which it cannot get planning permission for its redevelopment without a Grand Prix contract and cannot get a Grand Prix contract without planning permission.

One way or another, he concluded, it will be worth watching to see how things develop.

He came around a corner and entered the village of Loves Green. He laughed out loud.

"I am sure there is a Honda dealership here somewhere," he said.

January 3 2008

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