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The Toyota Affair

FEATURE BY MIKE LAWRENCE
13/11/2005

Within 24 hours I received an unconfirmed story about Ferrari and also a news story concerning Ferrari and I have the feeling that they may be connected.

The news story that a date has been set, 26th April, 2006, for the hearing of a case against Angelo Santini and Mauro Iacconi for the disclosure of confidential material. The two men had both worked for Ferrari in 2002 and then moved to Toyota. The nub of the story is that the 2003 Toyota TF103 bore genetic similarities to the Ferrari 2002.

Neither man now has a connection to Toyota.

An original, and much more serious, charge that they had stolen Ferrari software, has been dropped. Of course there is a difference between something being true and being able to be proven in court. I had a source within Toyota who told me he had seen fabricators working from Ferrari plans; he had seen Ferrari documents in the hands of one of Toyota's most senior engineers; and then there was the internal email telling people to destroy anything connected with Ferrari. My source named names as well.

Stories at the time (November, 2003) spoke of co-operation between the Italian and German police and it seemed to be the case that Santini had not obeyed the instruction to destroy his part of the evidence.

At the time Dave Richards, then head of BAR Honda, said in a newspaper interview that he had been approached by two men who offered to sell him secrets of their current employer. He did not name the men or the team they worked for, but it was unlikely to have been Minardi.

As a matter of general principle, if guy working for Team Terrific approaches Magic Motorsport, and Magic accepts the offer, then Magic is going to make sure he never gets near any of their secrets. When the guy realises he will never get far up the ladder at Magic, it may dawn on him that the greatest asset he has is what he still knows about Team Terrific and, even though that grows less valuable by the day, he may decide that, since it is all he has, he is not going to destroy it.

Angelo Santini claimed that the information could have been of no use to Toyota since the 2003 car ran on Michelin tyres and the engine was different. As we will see, that argument is irrelevant.

The fact remains that the TF103 was the spitting image of the Ferrari F2002. When it comes to the shape of the body, that is something in plain view, but it is one of the few things on an F1 car which is. If a team brings out a new diffuser, photographers in the pitlane will have it emailed to whichever team is a client of theirs and rivals will be examining it before the car has turned a wheel.

All the teams build cars which are under the minimum weight limit, and by up 100 kgs. The trick is then to place the ballast where it most helps the handling. One example is that the sump on a Cosworth engine is made of solid brass. There would have been a time when Cosworth would have built the sump from tissue paper if they could .

Then there are the computer systems. Consider the sophistication of the kit you can buy at your local store, as a PC, digital camera, cell phone, games console, DVD, anything, and look at the performance per clam shell and think what similar kit was like just three or five years ago. What Joe Average buys in the high street, a serious geek would not give houseroom.

In 1986 I did a feature on an outfit which pioneered the setting up of suspensions for the club racer. Their computer was a Sinclair Spectrum which had a memory of 64K though you could buy an add on which brought it up to a mighty 128K. Furthermore, you needed a tape recorder so you could load the programs, which were on tape cassettes. The outfit did good business and had a good reputation Motoring News gave it an entire page, broadsheet, not tabloid.

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