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.”