Gascoyne

25/04/2006
FEATURE BY MIKE LAWRENCE

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.

You have to wonder at the intelligence of people who thought that the Italian authorities would stand idly by while Ferrari was being ripped off by a company which has also caused major problems for Fiat.

All the rumours say that Gascoyne was on a salary of £5 million, he is receiving nearly £100,000 a week while on gardening leave. Tell you what, Toyota, I'd be prepared to do Sweet Fanny Adams for a fraction of that. The only people in the entire Toyota empire who are paid more are Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher. To be fair, they do have to work weekends.

According to the magazine, Auto Express, the highest paid automotive executive in the world is Rick Wagoner, CEO of General Motors. Apparently, Mr Wagoner is on a salary of £1.26 million and has the opportunity to earn an equal amount in bonuses. The man who runs General Motors can earn half of Gascoyne's salary if all bonuses are paid. If Auto Express is correct, Gascoyne's salary must be several times larger than that of the CEO of Toyota. That is something which probably focused the mind of every manager at Toyota.

Gascoyne has a reputation for being temperamental and his nickname is 'The Rottweiler'. Hey, Pope Benedict's nickname used to be 'God's Rottweiler' because he insisted on particular standards of scholarship within the context of Roman Catholic theology. This did not prevent him from being elected as Pope by his fellow cardinals when there could have been more political spin from the appointment of an African or a South American Pope.

I know of other Technical Directors who have been equally demanding. John Barnard was notorious for his outbursts. I have chapter and verse, on tape, and my source cannot be bettered, make of that what you will. The owner of a now defunct F1 team told me how his Technical director once harangued him for 45 minutes, he sat in the boss's office and ranted, on about the team's waste paper bins.

There have been some really odd people who have designed good racing cars.

Stories abound of prima donnas in many walks of life and often their temperament will be tolerated as long as they can deliver a unique contribution. It is the unique contribution which is the sticking point. The late Maria Callas could behave abominably offstage, but all was forgiven when she sang. Mike Gascoyne has not delivered the equivalent of Callas's Tosca.

The official story is that there was a difference over policy. I do not believe that for a moment, I think it was a clash of personalities between Toyota people and a maverick who did not toe the company line. I'm not sticking up for Gascoyne, I think his reputation has been inflated, I am just pointing out the difference between a manufacturer and a racer.

It's a relationship fraught with potential difficulties, even when a manufacturer owns a team. We saw it at Jaguar Racing, where the team suffered as a result of wider corporate issues within Ford. When Bill Ford took the helm he demanded to know who was this Eddie Irvine who was the company's highest paid employee. Some of the Ford executives, soon to be former executives, had decided it would be nice to go racing and let the shareholders pick up the tab.

The first manufacturer/racer collaboration in Europe must have been in 1963 when Ford, having failed to buy Ferrari, decided to set up in competition. They established the Special Vehicles Operations on a new industrial estate and contracted Lola for a year. The deal saved Lola because the outfit moved to the same estate and Ford paid for Lola's factory for six years after the contract had ended.

Lola's design team was Eric Broadley and Tony Southgate and they had been doing pretty well. Tony remembers it as six months of a year with a pencil in hand and six months with a welding torch.

The suits arrived from Detroit and each brought his own agenda. Eric and Tony wanted the GT40 to have an aluminium monocoque, but the suits decided it had to be made of mild steel so it could be repaired anywhere that Ford sold cars, even in the Australian Outback.

Were I to drive into the Outback, the last car I would chose would be a GT40, though I adore every last rivet. I'd want air conditioning and somewhere to stow plenty of food and water. The design of the GT40 was compromised from the start by suits with influence, but without experience. Eric had to stay where he was, but Tony soon moved on.

One of the side issues left by the suits is that Len Bailey, a Ford man, has often been credited with the design of the GT 40 and it's not true. Bailey never designed one decent competition car, but he was able to work the suits. Eric Broadley was the main man on the GT 40.

To give Ford its due, it learned its lesson and, for more than thirty years, it treated outfits like Lotus and Cosworth as equal partners. In the 1980s Ford had the opportunity to buy Cosworth and refused even though it marketed the RS Sierra Cosworth and was associated on other projects, including the FORCE F1 team. The reason was that Ford appreciated what Cosworth brought to the table as a subcontractor and feared that Cosworth could lose their special spark if it became absorbed into a large corporation.

Times change, a company's personnel changes, and when Ford bought Stewart Grand Prix and changed its name to Jaguar Racing, a new generation forgot the lessons of the past.

It was noticeable during the partnership between Williams and BMW that more comment was coming from the engine supplier than had ever been the case when Williams had partnerships with Honda and Renault. The partnership between Williams and BMW went sour and BMW has bought Sauber. To quote James Boswell's Life of Johnson: 'A gentleman who had been very unhappy in marriage, married immediately after his wife died: Johnson said it was the triumph of hope over experience.'

A company's involvement in Formula One can never be quantified, it can only ever be a hunch. Imagine you are a senior executive at Toyota and you joined the company in 1970 straight from university, aged 21, in 1970. It was common practice in Japan to join a company for life.

In 1970, Toyota was the most promising of the Japanese car companies. It made one outstanding model, the Land Cruiser, which was not sophisticated, but was bulletproof and in the middle of the desert, reliability beats sophistication. Toyota's other cars were not very good, but they offered value for money since they came fully loaded at a time when a radio was an optional extra on most cars.

With rare exceptions, such as the Datsun 240Z, the Japanese motor industry did not make many good models until the mid 1980s. Typically, the front end of a Japanese car was not on speaking terms with the back end. Subaru now makes cars which are wonderful to drive, but twenty years ago Subaru sold only to people with pointy heads.

It is a wonder that there is a Japanese automotive industry at all since most of Japan is uninhabitable and the archipelago has few natural resources. The genius of Japanese industry has been its people who have had to import raw materials and energy sources, but have added value to them. Switzerland doesn't have much in the way of iron, coal or oil, but it imports a ton of steel and turns it into Rolex watches.

Our bright young graduate is thrilled to get a job with Japan's most successful car company even though Toyota, at the time, is a minor player in international terms. Volume is not everything, a cheap car has a slim profit margin. In 1970, Cadillac was making more then 250,000 cars a year and all sold at premium prices.

By the time our hypothetical young graduate is approaching his 30th birthday, Toyota is exporting on a serious scale. It has a fleet of transporter boats and, from 1973, these are equipped with refrigeration. It sends cars to America and then the refrigeration is switched on so the same boat can be loaded with soft fruit for sale in Japan. It's really simple when you are told how the trick is done, like David Blane's levitation in the street stunt (it's called the Belusschi effect), but someone has to think of it first.

By the time that Toyota really hits America, in the 1970s, Detroit has become lazy. There was a time when every major innovation, be it hydraulic brakes, auto transmission, air conditioning, turbocharging, even intermittent windscreen wipers, came from the American industry. I cannot remember the last time that any significant innovation came from America.

Toyota is not only shifting iron from the showrooms, it is moving upmarket and our man is moving up the company ladder. Our man is not yet 40 when, in 1988, Toyota launches the Lexus marque, going head to head with Mercedes Benz. Europe has never taken to Lexus, but the cars are ideal for American driving conditions.

Our man is part of a team who has helped make a maker of cheap cars, which once occupied a small niche in most markets, into the most significant car maker in the world. Toyota no longer sells cars because they are cheap for the specification, but because they are well made and well engineered. I have yet to drive one which has excited me, but too much excitement loses a chap his driving licence.

The imaginary executive I have described has been loyal to his company and his company has repaid that loyalty. We have a picture of a successful career. Our man is not famous, not a celebrity, but he is respected and his children do not want for shoes on their feet or meat on the table.

Imagine your reaction if you were in that position and, on the other side of the world, an Englishman is lured by money and he is being paid more than the company chairman. You would hardly be human if you didn't feel at least a twinge of envy, perhaps even anger.

Most of us would expect that such a person, who has been poached on such a salary, to be very special indeed. It would have been remarkable had Gascoyne lived up to the expectation. Throw in the fact that he has a reputation for temperament and view him from the perspective of Japanese corporate culture. It doesn't quite have the feel of a marriage made in Heaven.

I think that Toyota made a mistake in believing that one man could make a difference to a workforce of more than a thousand. In the same way, I think that Red Bull has made a mistake in head hunting Adrian Newey and, apparently, paying him even more than Toyota has been paying Mike Gascoyne. I have ceased to believe in the idea of a Superstar Designer.

Put it this way, we can say that RJ Mitchell designed the Spitfire, he had the driving vision, but nobody can say who designed the B 2 stealth bomber.

The rules of formula One are now so tightly governed, even to the number of cylinders in an engine, that nobody is going to be able to come up with the equivalent of ground effect or using the engine as a stressed member. I do not believe that any individual can make much of a difference.

To replace Gascoyne, Toyota has appointed a former tyre engineer with Michelin, so much for the Superstar Designer, The guy was in the factory all along. Maybe Toyota Company Man has picked up on something the rest of us have missed.

Gascoyne is known for his outbursts, there has never been a secret about that. My guess is that he has come up against corporate career men, people who give their lives and considerable talents to a company and who are not rewarded with fame and a salary of £570 an hour even when they're sleeping.

If you had devoted your life to a corporation and had helped it grow into the biggest car company on the planet, would you be happy with someone like Gascoyne who arrived out of the blue and was given a mega deal? Put yourself in the position of the guy who has given a company his whole professional life.

If push comes to shove, who are you going to support? Are you going to support Gascoyne, who has flitted from team to team, or are you going to support your traditional company structure? If you are a company man, you will support the corporate structure against the interloping maverick, who does not behave in the way of executives in Tokyo.

That is why Toyota sacked Mike Gascoyne. Forget the press release, he was sacked and forced into gardening leave because of pressure within Toyota.

The stress between company man and racer means that Toyota will never win a World Championship and nor will BMW. Both companies have been doing pretty well at what they do best, which is making vehicles that people want to buy. If Toyota ever wins a Grand Prix, it will not make you all hot and bothered over the prospect of owning a Yaris.

Renault knows what it can contribute to a team and does just that, it contributes. Renault provides the engines and the English branch does the rest, Renault knows how to go racing. It is only fair to point out that the English branch of Renault had a significant input from Mike Gascoyne.

I believe Gascoyne's reputation to be inflated, but I wish my reputation was so inflated. I think that Gascoyne is actually a victim, a rich victim, but a victim nonetheless. Toyota is never going to win a World Championship, nor is BMW. The mentality of a corporate executive is different to that of a racer. Williams will win Championships again because Williams exists only to win races. Toyota and BMW are only in the sport so that executives, employees, can swan around the paddock, looking important, with shareholders footing the bill.

Follow the money, always follow the money.

Mike Lawrence

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Published: 25/04/2006
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