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“Spygate” protagonist Nigel Stepney killed in mystery road accident
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Posted By: James Allen  |  02 May 2014   |  4:55 pm GMT  |  110 comments

Nigel Stepney, one of the key figures in Ferrari’s all conquering F1 team which won five world titles with Michael Schumacher in the 2000s has been killed in a mysterious road accident in Kent, England.

Stepney, who was 56 years old at the time of the accident, is perhaps best remembered for his part in the 2007 Spygate scandal, whereby he passed intellectual property relating to the design and operation of Ferrari F1 cars to McLaren designer Mike Coughlan, a scandal that culminated in McLaren being fined US $100 million by the FIA, then under the presidency of Max Mosley.

In one of the more curious episodes of recent times, he was also accused by Ferrari of trying to sabotage one of the cars by putting powder in the fuel tank.

It was a troubled end to a relationship which had brought great success to the Scuderia. Stepney was the chief mechanic and working under technical director Ross Brawn he brought a military level of discipline to the mechanics at the team which raised the standard of their work and especially their pit stops. Along with Brawn, designer Rory Byrne, Jean Todt, engine boss Paolo Martinelli and Stefano Domenicali, they were the figures behind the astonishing run of success.

It is believed that Stepney became disaffected when he was not promoted as the management shuffled around in the wake of Schumacher’s retirement and Ross Brawn’s departure on sabbatical.


Stepney’s death is shrouded in mystery. He appears to have parked a van on the hard shoulder of the M20 motorway and according to police, “For reasons yet to be established, the man appears to have entered the carriageway and was then in collision with an articulated goods vehicle. He was pronounced deceased at the scene.”


Stepney left Ferrari and more recently was working with NISMO and its president Shoichi Miyatani, issued a statement this evening,

“It is with great sadness that we learn today of the loss of our friend, Nigel Stepney.

“As the head of engineering at JRM, Nigel worked with NISMO since 2010. He led the JRM Racing team to the 2011 FIA GT1 World Driver’s Championship with the Nissan GT-R GT1 and most recently focused his efforts on the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, which won the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Pro-Am Championship in the hands of Nissan GT Academy team RJN.”

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1

Worked with Nigel just couple of years back and thought he was a great guy and great sense of humour. Will always remember our last words… Rest in Peace Nigel.

And show some sensitivity guys before wildly speculating – his daughter has posted on this thread so no doubt is reading these comments…

2
Tornillo Amarillo

I do not understand… mystery, death, suicide, carryageway…

Normally, when I do not understand the answer has to be with Money.

100 millions?

3
Name (required)

Condolences

4

Just been reading all these comments and so sad for Cassie and the rest of the family. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I was in their shoes.

5

His dad was a great goalkeeper for MUFC too….

6
kenneth chapman

@ james…well i certainly did miss that. when you said the ‘man entered the carriageway i automatically assumed that it was in the van’.

if you had said,eg, that he walked onto the carriageway then i would’ve not made the mistake. so my mistake…mea culpa and all that.

7

They were the words of the police officer, not me

8
kenneth chapman

@ james…true. just curious though. did you talk to the police or were you quoting from a press release? did you question what was said? it just seemed to me to be ambiguous that’s all.

but anyway,bad news no matter what. hopefully there will be some explanations coming sooner or later that will counter any further speculation.

9
kenneth chapman

i don’t understand how anyone could possibly deduce any relationship between the storyline and suicide?

mysterious? is it not possible that he pulled off the carriageway to take a call on a mobile then drove back out into the mainstream traffic, misjudged his entry point and was accidently killed?

anything could have caused a distraction that proved fatal making itjust another tragic traffic accident.

10

Well he got out of the van and walked into the carriageway, perhaps you missed that chilling detail

11

Got to love ambiguous statements by people living off taxes. “Entered the carriageway”, thank you Officer, was that on foot or in the vehicle, is your IQ insufficient to see that’s significant, or are you deliberately keeping the truth shrouded in ambiguity?

12
kenneth chapman

@ mike 84….exactement mon ami

13

Why, do you want to pay Oxford don’s wages to all of the thousands of police? Don’t expect letter-perfect abilities for those that we hire en masse, for skills that are in many cases not mainly developed in a classroom.

And to be really blunt, “entered the carriageway” is ENTIRELY correct, as he was now on foot. Had he been in his vehicle, then properly he would have RE-JOINED the carriageway.

14

There are so many reason’s why Schumacher has seven title. Sadly, a major one of them just passed.

15

Not to forget Schu in the list of figures behind the run of success.

16

It reads like suicide. Very sad. If anyone is feeling depressed talk to someone.

I wonder if the reporting of Max Mosley’s unorthodox sexual activities was part of someone or some people exacting revenge on Mosley for his treatment of McLaren regarding the ‘spying’ scandal. I then wonder if the fall-out of that situation caused Mosley’s son to kill himself. If I am right then arguably that is two men whose suicides seem to be connected to that scandal.

17

Maybe he saw a stray puppy on the other side and was trying to save it from being run over. Maybe he heard a ticking sound and was concerned the van was about to blow up. Maybe he did talk to someone and they put him on drugs that made him think it was safe to walk across the traffic.

If he was a loving father as they say, why would he kill himself and lose his family the life insurance? Doesn’t make sense, that.

18

If every person who killed themselves were thinking sensibly just before they killed themselves I doubt most would do it. I do not understand depression but I have seen its effect and sensible people end up doing stupid acts. I have known several people who had loving families, a lot to live for etc. and they killed themselves. I am happy to have a debate about the merits of the argument I make about Mosley’s son’s suicide and even on the reporting of Mosley’s unorthodox sexual activities as an act of revenge.

19

Agreed with your comments re. Mosley, but that’s a whole other subject that could consume 100 million pages of blog comments if opened.

20
kenneth chapman

@ lawrence… it is interesting to consider just what happened in mosley’s expose.

he always said that he would expose who did what but at the end of the day he never has. reading his comments at the time it appeared as though he was indirectly looking at mclaren or mclaren people.

certainly motive was there but he provided no further details so one can only assume that he was either wrong or didn’t have the evidence.

i was rather hopeful that nigel stepney would’ve finally given us some insight into the darker part of the F1 world where strange things have happened and probably still do.

21

Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, Jean Todt, Paolo Martinelli, Stefano Domenicali, Neigel Stepheny and Michael Schumacher.

What a dream team…….

22
Torchwood Five

Sorry to hear about this.

To see that smiling picture at the top, and know that the life was cut short only a few years later.

23

2014 is turning out to be a depressing year for F1, so many bad things have happened. Truly shocked when I heard about Nigel, my thoughts are with his family and friends.

24

Sad news.

25

Why is it necessary to have “spygate” in the headline. Nigel Stepney was a great mechanic, and I’d hate to think that one negative action is what he is always left with! Why not have a headline of top former f1 mechanic killed?

PLEASE change the headline: please emplore your employers at the BBC to change theirs.

I can’t imagine how much stress always being related to 2007 in the media must place on an individual! Just think about that, please!

26

Unfortunately most people, especially reading the BBC, will not know who Stepney is. Their very first question, before reading the article, will be “Why should I care?” This is true of any article really.

So when writing a headline, newspapers, etc. try to answer that question.

For what it’s worth “‘Spygate’ Protagonist is a well crafted phrase. You could argue that the readers of this site are much more educated around F1 and F1 history, so there would be a higher level of interest to learn about this news as it relates to a key figure behind the scenes during the MSC era at Ferrari. Still, it is quick shorthand a glance.

As others have done, I offer my condolences for his family during this painful time.

27

James, could you please explain why this incident was “mysterious”? This type of accident happens all too often on motorways.

The fact that Nigel Stepney was involved does not make it any different to other accidents of this nature, as you appear to imply.

28

People commonly walk into oncoming traffic?

Not where I’m from.

29

Do you remember stories where he was saying that he was pursued by italian mafia?

30

Hogswollop. Bullhonky. Baloney. If he actually said this he was either a drama queen or chronically paranoid. Ferrari would never get involved with organised crime. Besides, justice was served; McLaren were disqualified and fined a gargantuan $100 million, handing the championship to Ferrari.

If he was being pursued by anyone, they’d be coming from Woking. 😉

31

Ferrari is owned controlled by longest running Freemasons in Italy.

32

Ferrari should have promoted him, he was a genius at what he did. RIP.

33

Not just considering that Nigel Stepney leaves behind a family, I find the title inappropriately sensationalist and bordering disrespectful.

This is not a “mystery” for us to speculate on, nor is there any evidence that links the accident to Mr. Stepney’s past activities.

34

I disagree. 7 years on from the 2007 scandal many people (including myself) had forgotten the name “Nigel Stepney” while still remember the “Spygate” affair. By drawing the connection between this name and “Spygate”, people will have a context for who this man is. Without the apparently ‘sensationalist’ title, I would not have known who he was when I read it.

Also, it is very much a mystery as the circumstances under which he has died are rather unusual and appear to make very little sense. People don’t normally walk into oncoming traffic. No one anywhere has said that the accident has anything to do with the industrial espionage of 2007.

35

“The evil that men do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones;”

Julius Caesar Act 3 scene 2

Rest in Peace

36

Sadly the incident that claimed the life of Nigel happened very close to my home. As a photo journalist i took several images, for local news, not realising who the victim was at that time, when news broke naming Nigel it was a shock. I had met him on two occasions and found him very pleasant to speak to.

My thoughts go out to the family and friends at this distressing time.

37
Michael Spitale

There is so much that has never been answered about Nigel. He was one of the top people in the pit lane. Then he did some bizarre stuff by any standard with pouring powder in Kimi’s car and telling team secrets. Now sadly, even his death follows that odd behavior with parking his van in such a high risk place. Hope his family pulls though….

38

Very sorry to hear this news. Yes, his reputation was tarnished by Spygate, but as a lifelong ferrari fan I respected his genius. 56 is a young age to die. 🙁

39
Scuderia McLaren

Ferrari have the opportunity to be a bit classy here. To allude to his great work and part in the Scuderia’s greatest period of success. They can show grace here. If they choose they can show benevolence.

I bet they won’t.

There is little left in today’s F1 that suggests grace and integrity can be found. Especially in a red team I once admired.

40
kenneth chapman

it is always tragic when someone loses their life for whatever reason and stepney is just one of them.

i was rather looking forward to reading the proposed book that he was rumored to be preparing for publication. his latter times at ferrari were bizarre, to say the least. what was the white powder he had in the pocket of his overalls and what was actually put into the ferrari fuel tank?

unless there are any drafts of his book left lying around we most likely will never know the answers to those troubling questions.

he certainly led an interesting life.

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