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McLaren’s team faces possible sanctions

The FIA World Motor Sports Council was to expected to decide Thursday whether to sanction the McLaren team over the Formula One spy scandal.

In a hearing Thursday before the Paris-based organization, McLaren is to face new evidence in the investigation into the team's alleged use of secret technical documents belonging to F1 rival Ferrari.

If found guilty, McLaren could face a stiff punishment, ranging from expulsion from the championship this season and next, to deduction of points from the team or drivers Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

The case broke open in July when a 780-page technical dossier on Ferrari cars was found at the home of McLaren's chief designer, Mike Coughlan, who was later suspended. Ferrari mechanic Nigel Stepney, who allegedly supplied the documents, was fired.

The World Motor Sport Council ruled in July that McLaren was guilty of fraudulent conduct for possessing the Ferrari documents but did not punish the team because there was insufficient evidence the material was misused. However, the council warned that McLaren could be kicked out of the 2007 and 2008 series if it is found in the future that the information has been used "to the detriment of the championship."

World governing body FIA announced last week it was calling a new hearing of the council after "new evidence" had emerged.

McLaren said it would make "a strong set of submissions" in its defense, but declined to comment further until the hearing.

FIA president Max Mosley sent letters to Alonso, Hamilton and test driver Pedro De La Rosa on Aug. 31, saying the sport's regulator had been told that "one or more McLaren drivers may be in possession ... of written evidence relevant to this investigation."

Mosley asked the three drivers to cooperate "in the interests of the sport and the championship" and offered them amnesty in return. Mosley also wrote that "serious consequences would follow" if they were later found to "have withheld any potentially relevant information."

Alonso has reportedly submitted evidence to FIA.

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