My recent piece on Toyota and its ethics brought me the largest mailbag since Pitpass began and the letters were remarkable for their unanimity and passion. Nobody disagreed with me and many readers wanted to add points of their own all have been carefully noted.
One of the points I made is that a senior manager sent an internal email in May, 2003, instructing all personnel with Ferrari items to destroy them. That person is still with the company, indeed, he has been promoted. If I know his identity, which I do, so the do the police. For the time being, he is on the back burner.
A letter from one of my correspondents includes the following which confirms the internal mail. "I worked for Toyota's F1 team for several years and I can confirm both the attitude towards cheating and the complete lack of knowledge of what sport, in general, is all about.
"The Ferrari incident, including the internal e.mail you mentioned and the fact that I watched the secretary of the then Technical Director hide drawings and CDs in my locker on the day of the German police raid, was probably the main reason for me deciding to leave the company a while ago."
Every person charged with offences resulting from the alleged misappropriation of Ferrari intelligence has left Toyota Motorsport. The most recent news about Toyota's personnel concerns the sacking of Mike Gascoyne. Since I want to make Gascoyne the main thread of this piece, let me make it clear that Gascoyne is unblemished so far as the Ferrari incident is concerned.
When the internal email was sent in May, 2003, Gascoyne was at Benetton/Renault. The e.mail in May 2003 is important, it seems to indicate that someone had wind of an investigation. What gets me is that there are people at Toyota who are so dumb they thought they could keep it all secret and bluff it out. Toyota employs more than a thousand people and you could tell most of them about your latest software and you secret would be safe because they will not understand what you are telling them. Nicking software, however, is a story that everyone can understand, it has become the plot of many a movie. That is a story that the guy who washes the plates in one of the canteens can tell to his mates.
The only thing that links Gascoyne to the Ferrari incident is that Toyota Motorsport realised it needed a Technical Director who was completely clean and they knew that six months before the police raids.
I read the evidence like this: Toyota believed that it might be in trouble, so they cast around for someone to replace Gustav Brunner, someone from the outside. If you are going to
recruit a top designer, you need to make sure that his contract is coming up for renewal which limits your options. Toyota felt empowered to poach Gustav Gunner by waving a big cheque because it calculated, correctly, that Minardi would settle for compensation. About the only existing Technical Director it could approach without writs winging to Köln was Gascoyne. The way Toyota thinks is that their man had already to be a Technical Director, it is the safe option.
Brunner stayed on until the end of 2005, two and a half years after Gascoyne's appointment. It may only be coincidence, but Brunner left just weeks before he was charged under German commercial law. It would be reasonable to guess that he, and others, had been invited to assist the police with their enquiries and they knew their bluff had been called. In very short order, Brunner, René Hilhorst, formerly chief aerodynamacist, and Ove Andersson, once the team principal, and the man who knew nothing about Toyota's cheating in the WRC, left Toyota and were charged a few weeks later. My guess is that they thought the authorities would be content with Angelo Santini and Mauro Iacconi, whose trial is scheduled for 26th April.