After a protracted legal case, racing driver David Piper has successfully sued motoring journalist and racing driver Mark Hales for mechanical damage that occurred to his Porsche 917 replica during a track test and photo shoot at Cadwell Park in April 2009.
Mark is one of the most gifted and respected historic racing car drivers in the business. There is good reason why he is trusted by many collectors to drive and race some of the world’s most valuable cars. Mark has been, and continues to be, one of Octane’s most trusted writers – very few people can place the reader in the cockpit of a racing car and describe the experience quite as eruditely as Mark can.
Octane was one of a number of magazines that received the feature, set up by Mark Hales directly with David Piper, comparing his Porsche 917 replica and Nick Mason’s Ferrari 512S. Octane was asked to provide insurance cover for the photo shoot and did so; the insurance policy explicitly excluded cover for mechanical failure, which is standard industry practice.
Unfortunately, during the feature, the Porsche 917 suffered engine damage. Mark’s defence was that mechanical failure caused the Porsche to jump out of gear, which led to the engine over-revving. David Piper claimed that Hales failed to engage the gear correctly, which led to engine damage. The engine was rebuilt in Germany for the sum of €37,370 after the incident.
There is significant risk involved in driving old cars. For professional drivers such as those hired to drive cars at events like the Goodwood Revival, or to test cars for magazine features, there has to be trust between driver and owner. Features in quality publications can add provenance, awareness, and ultimately value to a car, and it is common practice for owners to accept liability for mechanical failure as part of the general cost of ownership of old and hard-used classic racing cars.
Octane was drawn into negotiations between David Piper and AON insurance company, which ultimately refused to pay after prolonged discussions on the basis that the damage was caused as a result of mechanical failure. At that point Octane offered David Piper part-payment towards the repair costs on the basis that it was one of several magazines to publish the feature. Piper refused the offer and unfortunately the case found its way to the High Court.
Mark Hales is left with total payments of around £110,000 plus his own legal bill. He faces bankruptcy and potentially the loss of his home.
This is an extremely unusual and unfortunate case but Octane remains committed to driving the very best historic racing and classic cars regardless of their value. Most owners of these great motor cars are realistic about their usage and testing and will continue to offer Octane magazine the opportunity to feature them.
Octane magazine is supporting and contributing to a fund to help Mark Hales at this difficult time.