Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stepney hits back

Ferrari's Nigel Stepney has broken his silence and declared that he is the victim of a "dirty tricks campaign" waged by the Italian team.Rumours this weekend suggested that the formula one veteran, currently the subject of a police and internal investigation for alleged illegal behaviour and possible sabotage of his own employer, had fled Italy and was holidaying somewhere in Asia.England's Sunday Times newspaper has now located him in the Philippines, with his fiancee Ash and their child."I'm on a planned holiday," he said."Why would anyone say I am not contactable? I booked the flights through the Ferrari travel office. They know where I am."Police raided his residence near Ferrari's Maranello base on Friday night, seizing several objects including a small container, which could be related to reports that a mysterious white powder was found in the fuel tank of Felipe Massa's F2007 in the days before the Monaco GP.Stepney, a Briton, was openly disappointed after being left behind in the technical reshuffle following the departure of Ross Brawn late last season.He was subsequently left in a factory-based role, despite previously occupying the high profile role as race and test technical manager.The 47-year-old said from the Philippines: "This is just part of a dirty tricks campaign. I have confidence I'll be cleared by the legal process that is now taking place."His Italian lawyer Luca Brezigher told La Gazzetta dello Sport that Stepney was being investigated for allegations including "aggravated damage" and "sporting fraud".But he said of Stepney, who earns more than (US) $1m per year: "I don't find it credible that a professional of his calibre could damage his own team."

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