The Mole goes out to lunchJanuary 31, 2012
A cold and wintry day at Vauxhall Cross is usually a good excuse to go to the SIS canteen, but with mobile phones not allowed inside the building, the younger generation (who are dependent on these devices) like to go out in order to exchange SMS messages with their nearest and dearest.
It was bone-shudderingly cold morning when Penelope (Roedean) wandered into The Mole’s office and said: “So you are buying me lunch then.” It was not a question, but rather a statement.
“Let’s go to the Riverside,” she said. “You can have something healthy like salmon and haddock fishcakes on wilted spinach. Followed by a sticky toffee pudding with cream.”
The Mole nodded in agreement. It was impossible to say no to such a gorgeous creature which, of course, she knew. She had learned on her father’s knee how to deal with men, and The Mole was no exception. The idea of being spotted by young alpha males escorting this gazelle of a girl tweaked something in his deep sub-conscious, and he knew that she would play her role perfectly, with a naughty giggle from time to time to catch the attention of the young blades in the restaurant, while at the same time tickling his ego.
“Jolly good,” she smiled. “Now I must get on and save British motorsport from the beastly Germans and Italians.”
“And Americans,” said The Mole.
An hour later, the war had been put on hold and they had found themselves one of those rather nice booths at the Riverside, from where they could look out over the Thames, and not be overheard by tables nearby.
“We do need to start worrying about another lot of Germans,” said Penelope, toying with her smoked paprika crispy squid. “I mean the Mercedes F1 lot have not been much to worry about so far. Old Norbert seems to live a charmed life in Stuttgart, forever telling his bosses over there that next year will be the big year. No-one really knows if their car is quick, or whether it could be faster with better drivers. Michael Schumacher has never seemed to be on a par with Nico Rosberg, and we still don’t really know whether Rosberg is a winner, because he has not had a team mate who can really test him. At least not in F1. I guess next year they will put Paul di Resta in with Rosberg and we will find out. Before that happens they need to find a gracious way to finding a parking place for Michael.”
She paused for a breath.
“Did you just use the words ‘gracious’ and ‘Norbert’ in the same sentence?” The Mole asked.
Penelope giggled naughtily, and heads all around the restaurant popped up.
“Anyway,” she went on. “Forget about Mercedes. I am more interested in Volkswagen at the moment.”
“AutoUnion, you mean,” said The Mole. “Let’s face it. The dominant German Grand Prix teams of the 1930s came from Mercedes and AutoUnion, and when you look at the history, they were in fact Mercedes and what is now known as Volkswagen.”
“In essence, yes,” she replied.
“And you think that Formula 1 will one day end up back in the 1930s with Mercedes and AutoUnion battling it out with Alfa Romeo (known today as Ferrari). Is that it?”
“Basically,” said Penelope. “British motorsport’s success was really founded on things that SIS purloined from the old Mercedes and AutoUnion factories after World War II.”
The Mole nodded.
“So,” Penelope went on, “if we are to continue that domination we need to make sure that the Germans are kept under control.”
“Theoretically,” said The Mole. “But you forget that Mercedes Benz in Brackley is about as German as cricket.”
“I read somewhere the other day that the German cricket team is ranked 37th in the world,” Penelope said. “They are about as good as Mozambique and Japan. The funny thing is that I saw a list of their national players and it was all Khans, Hassans, Rajudeens and some really funny combinations such as Kashif Haider and a bloke called James Eggleston. I noticed that because it was the German pronounciation for old you-know-who. Bernard Eggleston.”
“I don’t suppose he’ll be buying the TV rights for German cricket any time soon,” said The Mole.
There was a pause. The Mole had an eye-to-eye moment with a roasted sardine, while Penelope nailed another piece of squid.
“This Dürheimer chap at Volkswagen is talking about the company coming to Formula 1 in 2018,” she said.
The Mole nodded.
“I can see that happening,” she said. “He is on his way to the top and by 2018 Martin Winterkorn, Ulrich Hackenberg, Jochem Heizmann, Werner Neubauer and all that generation will be gone. The younger guys like Michael Macht, Rupert Stadler, Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz and Winfried Vahland will be taking over. We reckon Dürheimer could go to the top, although Stadler is a bit of a rival. Either way, Dürheimer is going to be an important player. We did a little research on him a while back and it is very interesting. You know he is really into racing?”
The Mole raised an eyebrow.
“It is not well known, but before he joined Porsche Dürheimer was working at BMW, mainly in motorcycle development. We discovered that in 1985 he was a member of the Marlboro BMW motorcycle team on the Paris-Dakar Rally, working with Gaston Rahier, and racing from service point to service point in a Puch. In those days the service crews were actually in the rally as well.”
“Really?” said The Mole. “That’s interesting.”
“Yes,” said Penelope, “and guess what? He then went on to work closely with a young BMW motorcycle engineer called Willy Rampf.”
“You mean Sauber’s Willy Rampf?” asked The Mole.
“Yes,” Penelope said. “Willy started out a motorcycle development engineer before joining Sauber in 1994. After three years he went back to BMW and ran the next BMW Dakar Rally team, which won with a guy called Richard Sainct in 1999 and 2000, but then he went back to Sauber as technical director and stayed right through the BMW period and left in the middle of 2010. Guess where he is working now?”
“Willy?” said The Mole. “No idea.”
“He is now the technical director of Volkswagen Motorsport, he is the man in charge of the Volkswagen Polo R WRC project.”
“Is he?” said The Mole.
“Yes,” Penelope said. “He and Durheimer go back a long way. The other thing to remember about Durheimer is that he was the man behind the Porsche RS Spyder sports car in 2005, the first official Porsche in top level prototype racing since the late 1990s.”
“So he’s a fan of racing and has someone on his staff who really knows the ins and outs of F1,” said The Mole. Interesting.”
“That is not all,” said Penelope. “You know that Proton is now owned by these people called DRB-Hicom. They are assembling Volkswagen Passats in a place called Pekan in Malaysia, for the non-Chinese Asian market. Well everyone is saying that DRB will now sell Group Lotus, but I am not so sure. Lotus has some good technology that DRB-Hicom could probably use. Group Lotus also has a five year sponsorship deal with the F1 team, and I think there is also an option to buy the team. Maybe DRB-Hicom will hold on to the whole thing for a while and see if VW decides to go down the F1 path.”
“And they could transform the team into a Volkswagen factory operation?” said The Mole.
He thought for a moment.
“No,” he said. “That’s too far-fetched.”