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Renault case transcends Ferrari spy saga claims McLaren

NEWS STORY
23/11/2007

McLaren, which was fined $100m and excluded from the 2007 Constructors' Championship for its role in the Ferrari spy saga, when documents were allegedly passed by Nigel Stepney to Mike Coughlan, is claiming that the ongoing case involving Renault is as bad, if not worse, than the scandal that rocked F1 this summer.

According to a number of British broadsheets, a leaked briefing memo from the Woking outfit relating to the case - which will be heard by the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Monaco next month - claims that the French team had "33 files containing more than 780 individual drawings" on its computers, and that the information provided amounted to "the entire technical blueprint of McLaren's 2006 and 2007 cars".

The memo also names seven senior members of the French team, including Tim Densham, the chief designer, Robin Tuluie (Head of Research and Development), Peter Duffy (Head of Mechanical Design), Tony Osgood (Head of Transmission Design) and Nick Chester (Head of Vehicle Performance), who, McLaren claim, discussed the British team's information.

The Times, which admits that the memo was leaked by McLaren, claims that this is an attempt to "dispel the impression within the sport that the illegal transfer of technical information from McLaren to Renault is of an altogether lesser order of importance than McLaren's possession of Ferrari secrets".

The Renault spy saga first came to light in September, at the height of the Ferrari saga, when McLaren claimed that Phil Mackereth, a former McLaren engineer who joined Renault in March 2006, had taken with him several floppy disks containing McLaren technical drawings.

Renault played down the significance of the information, claiming that much of it was obsolete and none of it had been used. Though the French team admitted that some employees had seen some of the data, it insisted that it had subsequently been deleted from its systems.

Then, on November 8, came the bombshell that the FIA World Motor Sport Council had summoned representatives of Renault to Monaco, to answer a charge that between September 2006 and October 2007, in breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code, the team had unauthorised possession of documents and confidential information belonging to McLaren. This included, according to the FIA statement, the layout and critical dimensions of the McLaren F1 car, together with details of the McLaren fuelling system, gear assembly, oil cooling system, hydraulic control system and a novel suspension component used by the 2006 and 2007 cars.

Once again, Renault insisted that it had done nothing wrong, with team boss Flavio Briatore saying: "When we found out in September, we talked with this guy (Mackereth), and we started an investigation and immediately suspended the guy and then immediately we informed McLaren and the FIA.

"We gave Mr Mosley all the correspondence and the evidence and a statement from our engineers making clear we never used any McLaren system in our car.

"The information was in the computer," he added, "it was in the disks that this guy brought. "It was very simple. It was a drawing of a few systems, it was part of a drawing of the gearbox and was part of a drawing of a mass-damper. I am confident the information was not used and not only me. We have witness statements from every engineer that was involved and, categorically, everybody says that there was no influence of any of these things on the design of our car."

In their submission to the FIA, McLaren's solicitors, Baker & McKenzie, say: "It is clear that McLaren's confidential design information was knowingly, deliberately and widely disseminated and discussed within the Renault F1 design and engineering team, thereby providing them with a clear benefit and unfair advantage."

The memo also reveals that Baker & McKenzie complained in writing to Renault's solicitors about what McLaren regards as a "cavalier attitude" on the part of senior Renault personnel during the investigation that other responses have been "incomplete", "misleading" or "incorrect".

The memo is said to conclude with an attack on Mackereth's suggestion that he had kept some confidential McLaren technical information for "sentimental reasons". Baker & McKenzie describe this as an "absurd" explanation.

Having felt the full force of the FIA this year, McLaren is clearly determined to ensure that this case is given the same priority, the same attention to detail, and the same naked publicity, as the Ferrari saga. However, quite how Max Mosley will react to the leak remains to be seen.

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