MAY 1, 2008

Mosley's Czech mate

In a radio programme in Prague, in the Czech Republic, the FIA's Radovan Novak has suggested to Radio Impuls's interviewer Vaclav Moravec that McLaren might be responsible for the sex scandal that has thrown the FIA into turmoil in the last few weeks. The comments were picked up by various other media outlets in the Czech Republic.

The interview, which is available on the Internet, is in Czech and, obviously, there are complications arising from exactly what was said, but there is no doubt that Novak referred to people who might have a motive because of the large fines imposed by the FIA.

When asked if he was referring to McLaren, Novak said "Ano treba, McLaren", which can be translated various ways, but means "yes, for example" or "yes, perhaps".

Whatever the exact wording, McLaren reacted in what can be described as a robust fashion.

"We have written to Mr Novak and are currently considering the appropriate route via which the remarks that have been attributed to him may be withdrawn or corrected," said McLaren boss Ron Dennis.

Dennis went on to deny Novak's suggestion in no uncertain terms.

"As I have consistently said whenever I have been asked about this, I categorically deny that I have anything to do with the News of the World investigation into Mr Mosley," he said. "Neither does anyone connected with the McLaren Group or the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, and neither does any agent or any other party acting on behalf of myself or anyone connected with the McLaren Group or the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team."

It is a substantial denial.

The FIA is making no comment about Novak's interview.

For a leading figure in FIA politics to have made any public suggestion about the matter is odd, even if Novak was playing up his own importance for the local media and thought that no-one would pick up a story from a Czech radio station.

He is a significant player in Max Mosley's world, not perhaps as the general-secretary of the Autoclub of the Czech Republic (ACCR), but rather as President of the FIA's Central European Zone (CEZ).

Close scutiny of Mosley's FIA reveals that certain delegates wield considerable regional power. The Asia Pacific Rally Championship is run by Nazir Hoosein; Derek Ledger holds the powerful role of Middle East representative; Venezuela's Enzo Spano is in charge of an organisation called the North America, Central America and Mexico (NACAM) and the FIA's African Region coordinator Surinder Thatthi runs the Confederation of African Countries in Motorsport.

Novak is regarded as one of Mosley's select group of regional "fixers", his zone being made up of Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia,

Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia and Slovakia.

The FIA-CEZ has its own trophies for autocross, circuit racing (including historic racing), hillclimbs, karting, rallying, rallycross and slaloms.

Novak has been a member of the World Council since 1997 and is seen as a fervent Mosley supporter. At the last FIA presidential election delegates were offered a secret ballot so they could register any opposition with anonymity.

"None of the delegates wanted to take up the offer," the FIA reported in its Automotive magazine. "Instead, Radovan Novak from the Czech Republic, stood and requested a vote of acclamation. The delegates responded with warm applause."