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Ferrari accused of "illegal" car
The F1 "spy controversy" takes another twist.
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2007 12:37 GMT

Ferrari: Battling McLaren on and off the circuit [GALLO/GETTY]

The war of words engulfing Formula One has taken a new twist with leaders McLaren accusing rivals Ferrari of running an illegal car at the start of the season and making 'grossly misleading' regarding McLaren's behaviour.
 
In a letter to the head of the Italian Automobile Club (ACI), team boss Ron Dennis took umbrage with Ferrari's allegations.
The governing FIA ruled last week that McLaren had been in unauthorised possession of Ferrari data but imposed no penalty because there was inconclusive evidence they had gained from it.
 
The matter will now go to appeal after protests from Ferrari and the Italian body.

Dennis' letter focused on two main points with Ferrari and McLaren data.

First, he said Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney, since dismissed by the team, had tipped off McLaren's chief designer Mike Coughlan in March that the Italian team's car was in breach of the regulations.

"Specifically, he told Mr Coughlan about a floor attachment mechanism and a rear wing separator, both of which could be and were seen on the Ferrari car prior to the Australian Grand Prix," said Dennis.

Trouble in the floor

He said the governing body declared the rear wing separator to be legal but not the floor device.

"As far as we are aware, Ferrari ran their cars with this illegal device at the Australian Grand Prix, which they won," said Dennis, whose team is currently 27 points ahead of their rival.

"In the interests of the sport, McLaren chose not to protest the result of the Australian Grand Prix even though it seems clear that Ferrari had an illegal competitive advantage."

Dennis said Stepney had "acted properly and in the interests of the sport" in revealing the breaches.

"It is in the interests of Formula One that whistle-blowing is encouraged and not discouraged," he said.

While McLaren had instructed Coughlan to cease contact with Stepney they met in Barcelona on April 28.

In July, two computer discs with Ferrari material were found in a search of Coughlan's house carried out on the orders of the Italian team.

"As it is now in the public domain, Mr Coughlan has admitted that Mr Stepney gave him a dossier of Ferrari documents in Barcelona which he took for his own private reasons," wrote Dennis.

"He kept these documents at his home and later with the assistance of his wife copied (them) onto two CDs at a shop near their home before shredding the originals using a home shredder and burning them in his back garden."

Dennis argued Ferrari had gone to "extraordinary length to try to maximise the damage to McLaren, no doubt hoping to gain some advantage for the world championship" since that discovery.

He reiterated his belief that anyone else at McLaren was aware of the documents or of any Ferrari details finding their way into the design process.

"McLaren's reputation has been unfairly sullied by incorrect press reports from Italy and grossly misleading statements from Ferrari," said Dennis.

"It would be a tragedy if one of the best world championships in years was derailed by the acts of one Ferrari and one McLaren employee acting for their own purposes wholly unconnected with Ferrari or McLaren."

Source:
Agencies
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