Skeletons

01/05/2008
NEWS STORY

A couple of years back, a leading F1 team was tantalisingly close to securing a major deal with a company long thought of as the 'holy grail' of sports sponsorship. At one of the final meetings, everything regarding the deal being almost in place other than a few Is to be dotted and a few Ts crossed, a member of the F1 team - a well known figure - remarked to the CEO of the potential sponsor, a devout Christian, sign this deal with my team and you can travel the world with us and get to meet (or a word to that effect ) loads of beautiful women. The CEO rose from the table, walked away from the meeting and away from F1, never to return.

A few years earlier, Nigel Mansell, who while racing in F1 had also served as a Special (police) Constable on the Isle of Man, claimed that during his time in the sport he had been recruited by the Intelligence Services in order to keep an eye on the paddock since there was a strong suspicion that a team was funding its operation by importing hard drugs in its race transporters. Many thought the story to be the invention of a driver known for his tendency to exaggerate his own importance, a man who basked in the warm glow of limelight. Thing is, the story was true, there was a team using F1 as a cover for a drugs operation.

Today, there is a journalist who was previously involved in F1 in an altogether different role. When he walks through the paddock one notices the slight limp, the souvenir of a late night trip into the country in a white van, where a team of enforcers used baseball bats, amongst other things, to ram home the message that his involvement in the sale of an F1 team was totally out of order and to cease forthwith.

Formula One is a big money sport, and wherever there is big money there are skeletons, often literally. Put F1 under close scrutiny and there are many similar stories, some of which would seriously scare you. Remember Mike Lawrence's mantra... follow the money.

Within hours of the Max Mosley story breaking, once the sniggering had stopped and the shock set in, people were asking 'why'? Not why Max felt the need to go to prostitutes and indulge in sado-masochistic sex but why the News of the World had run the story in the first place.

Let's face it, F1, despite Bernie's claims, the Hamilton-effect and the overgenerous TV broadcast figures, is not the most popular sport in Britain, furthermore, ask man in the street to name one or two people involved in F1 and odds are that they will mention Lewis, or Bernie, Murray or even, at a pinch, Stirling. Before that day in March, Max Mosley, President of the Federation Internationale de L'Automobile simply didn't register on the public's radar.

Therefore one has to wonder why the News of the World, which usually focuses its attention on politicians, men of the cloth and celebrities, chose to turn its guns on Mosley.

As Mike Lawrence has previously written, the News of the World, though known for its sordid exposures, is not known for its investigative journalism, instead it is outsiders who approach the newspaper with stories to sell. Once it has the germ of a story, and feels that it will help sell, the News of the World gets to work.

What everyone is asking now, and has been for some time, is who would approach the News of the World with the Mosley saga in the first place?

Naturally, when one thinks of who might want to bring Mosley down in this way, one ponders the names of all those the FIA President has p***ed off over the years, and that is a long list which would involve all manner of people, including team bosses, tyre manufacturers, car manufacturers, journalists and even disgruntled fans. However, looking at the recent history of people the FIA President has tangled with one name pops to the top of the pile, that of Ron Dennis.

Dennis, who has never seen eye to eye with Mosley, and has been referred to in the past by the FIA President as "not being the sharpest tool in the box", suffered horribly in 2007, when his team was charged and found guilt of cheating. Other then a $100 million fine and exclusion from the Constructors' Championship, Dennis watched as his team almost fell apart and his protege lost the Drivers' Championship. Then there was that grovelling apology, when McLaren admitted that Ferrari's secret information had permeated further into his team than was first thought possible.

However, despite all this, is Dennis really capable of launching a plot that would have such a profound effect not only on Mosley but on F1 itself, a scheme that could rip F1 apart?

Despite the jokes, Photoshops and whispers, until now, there has been precious little public debate as to who might be behind the plot to expose Mosley, however, as a result of a comment on a Czech radio station it's out in the open.

In an interview, Radovan Novak, the general secretary of the Czech Automobile Association, is understood to have suggested that the spy saga might be linked with Mosley's exposure in the News of the World. This, in turn, led to Dennis issuing a statement in which he categorically denies any involvement.

"We are writing to Mr Novak and are currently considering the appropriate route via which the remarks that have been attributed to him may be withdrawn or corrected," it read.

Dennis then told The Times, 'sister' paper to the News of the World, and also one of the most active in terms of its criticism of the current FIA President: "As I have consistently said whenever I have been asked about this, I categorically deny that I have anything to do with the News of the World's investigation into Mr Mosley, neither does anyone connected with the McLaren Group or the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. Neither does any agent or any other party acting on behalf of myself or anyone connected with the McLaren Group or the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team."

Therefore, providing Dennis' response satisfies, attention will turn elsewhere.

Mosley knows better than most that this story has broken because - to quote the splendid Kenneth Williams in Carry on Cleo - "Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me!"

Consequently, he has engaged the services of the leading private investigations company, Quest, which is run by Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, former Chief of the Metropolitan Police.

Quest will now go about the job of attempting to find out exactly who is behind the News of the World story, not why but who. Despite claims elsewhere that this is merely a private investigation company, it will have contacts high up in the police, the security and intelligence services.

Furthermore, it is already established that some of those involved in this sorry saga, most notably the prostitute who sold her story to the News of the World, has a price, it should not be too difficult therefore to get her, or any of the other four hookers to agree a higher figure and spill the beans.

While fighting his privacy case against the News of the World, Mosley is also intent on getting to the bottom (sorry) of who started this campaign, and it is feared that in the coming weeks and months this could all get very, very messy.

The visit to the 'dungeon' in March wasn't the first time that Max has indulged himself in this way, he admits to have been doing it for years. Sado-masochisitc sex is Max's thing, his guilty pleasure, his secret.

We all have secrets, we all have skeletons... only last year, Nigel Stepney claimed to have known where Ferrari buries its bodies... fact is, the F1 paddock is a veritable graveyard.

However, once you set these things in motion, once you start digging, you never know what you might find, what damage might be done.

Sadly, it's already begun.

Chris Balfe
Editor

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Published: 01/05/2008
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