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Honda dragged into 'espionage' affair




Honda dragged into 'espionage' affair
Honda dragged into 'espionage' affair



http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/sport/2007/07/07/smgars107.xml 

By Kevin Garside
07/07/2007

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive." 
Has Sir Walter Scott's immortal line ever had greater application in 
sport than in Formula One this week? The great F1 espionage affair 
embraced a third team yesterday, when Honda joined Ferrari and McLaren 
as unwitting parties in an extraordinary turn of events

The passing of classified technical information, allegedly by Ferrari's 
Nigel Stepney, to a high-ranking employee at McLaren, believed to be 
chief designer Mike Coghlan, visited huge discomfort on the British 
team. The inference that McLaren might have benefited from a sinister 
information trail linked to their fiercest rivals, Ferrari, hurt team 
principal Ron Dennis and his team beyond imagination.

Imagine his joy then, when he learned that the collusion between Stepney 
and a McLaren employee, the identity of whom the company has still to 
acknowledge formally, was not a clandestine attempt to import critical 
data from Ferrari, but to pool information and offer that expertise to a 
third team. The problem for Dennis was that the information was yet to 
make the public domain. As a consequence McLaren were still the wounded 
party.

It was not until the late afternoon yesterday, when Dennis set a hare 
running by alluding to a third team's involvement, that the picture 
began to change. Within minutes Honda produced a statement that read: 
"Given the speculation surrounding the legal investigations at Ferrari 
and McLaren, the Honda Racing F1 Team would like to clarify that earlier 
this year Nigel Stepney, formerly of Scuderia Ferrari, requested a 
meeting with Nick Fry, chief executive officer of the Honda Racing F1 
Team. Nigel Stepney subsequently met in June of this year with Nick Fry 
and brought with him Mike Coughlan of McLaren, with a view to 
investigating job opportunities within the Honda Racing F1 Team. Honda 
would like to stress that at no point during this meeting was any 
confidential information offered or received. Nick Fry informed Jean 
Todt and Ron Dennis of the meeting and has offered to provide any 
information required by Ferrari and McLaren."

The mention of Coghlan by Honda is the first time any party has formally 
linked him to Stepney, though the two were spotted at a Barcelona cafe 
in April. A source close to Honda later added flesh to the bones, 
explaining that the Stepney proposal to Honda included hiring four 
technical staff. According to the source, Fry baulked at the offer. It 
is understood that the only individual who interested Honda was Coghlan.

Dennis was clearly frustrated by Honda's failure to alert McLaren to the 
meeting the moment they learned that Coghlan had been dragged into 
Ferrari's investigation into leaked data on Tuesday. That failure cost 
McLaren four days of heavy damage to their standing in the Formula One 
community and beyond.

"I want to be very correct in this process," Dennis said. "The first 
thing I did when I learned of this problem [on Tuesday] was phone Jean 
Todt. The second was to phone Max Mosley [president of F1's regulatory 
body, the FIA]. From the beginning we have been co-operative. The thing 
that I learned more than anything over the last few days is how fast 
people are prepared to jump into severe criticism of McLaren. I think 
over the next 48 hours there will be more information available to 
people that will give a better insight into motives and what lies behind 
some people's actions. Too many people are quick to criticise and 
condemn. The truth will come out."

Another truth was demonstrated out on the circuit, where Ferrari gave a 
further demonstration of their return to form. Though Lewis Hamilton 
warmed the cockles of chilly British hearts in the morning's free 
practice session, last week's winner in France, Kimi Raikkonen, kept the 
red flag flying highest in the afternoon.

[...]


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