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Exclusive: Dennis gets support from an unlikely source

NEWS STORY
11/09/2007

Though his Minardi team was never in a position to mix it with the big guns, away from the track Paul Stoddart was always prepared to take on the biggest and best of them.

In Melbourne 2005 he took on the FIA and won, and it was only out of fear that the sport's governing body would vent its anger on Australian motorsport that he didn't go in for the kill.

And who can forget the epic press conference in Montreal in 2003, when the Australian went head to head with Ron Dennis over the so-called fighting fund. While Stoddart stood his ground, his supposed ally, Eddie Jordan, remained silent, the streak along his backbone virtually the same colour as his team shirt (yellow).

Today, Stoddart is enjoying success in Champ Car, where his team budget wouldn't pay the catering bill of the leading F1 teams. Though he's out of F1, and to be honest, still missing it, he watches the sport with the same fearful fascination as the rest of us.

Ahead of Thursday's meeting of the World Motor Sport Council, the 'tell it like it is' Australian is keen to voice his support for his former adversary, Ron Dennis, while claiming that FIA President Max Mosley is endangering the sport in his quest for power and what Stoddart sees as a personal grudge against his fellow Englishman.

Aside form the spy saga, Stoddart is particularly incensed at what happened in Hungary.

"After Indy-gate and Melbourne, I thought I was beyond being surprised," he says, "but this particular issue, with regards McLaren and its points in Hungary, is simply the lowest of the low. There is no way that what happened in Hungary was bringing the sport into disrepute.

"What really happened in Hungary is similar to what happened in 2006 with Renault," says Stoddart, "except Flavio (Briatore) is a different beast. Flavio is one team principal Max won't mess with too much, though he has to prove that he's prepared to do a little bit. The whole (mass) damper thing, together with the incident during qualifying at Monza (2006), was bullshit.

"What does FIA stand for? It stands for Ferrari International Assistance, and that's been proven time and time again to be the case. Whether it's the $100m payment when the manufacturers were threatening to walk away and set up their own series and which started Ferrari's demise in the GPMA (Grand Prix Manufacturers' Association), or whatever, the FIA has consistently helped Ferrari, all the way down the line. The only difference is that lately it's been so blatant even a blind man can see it. And the reality is that it's damaging the sport.

"A while down the line, people will be saying, 'oh yeah, but it's forgotten,' about this current saga, but it's only forgotten if, as was the case last year, the right team won.

"People are frustrated by what they see as manipulation of the sport. Last year, when Renault and Alonso won the championships and Mosley's interference came to nought, people were satisfied; however, had (Michael) Schumacher and Ferrari won, people would have said that the whole thing was a farce.

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