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Mark Hales and David Piper court case

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 Hales and David Piper court case

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.

For those wishing to donate to the Mark Hales Appeal, click here.

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18 Comments

I think this is all pretty ridiculous. Engine failure can happen at any time no matter who is driving and surely Mark knows more than anyone how to drive with mechanical sympathy in mind. Sure it's awful for David too but it's all part of classic car ownership...albeit on a much grander scale than I'm used to. It's an odd situation but I'm sure if we all chipped in quid or so we could help him out. After all it's people like Mark who make it the magazine it is.

By guywarrington on 25 January, 2013, 11:14pm

f1kart

I just hope the classic car world shuns Piper.

By f1kart on 26 January, 2013, 2:03pm

Subscription

Such a shame....I propose to launch a subscription to help Mr Hales, a respected journalist and great driver, out of this mess. If every reader of Octane could send £1 or 2 to a bank account set up by Octane, the financial damage would be significantly reduced; it would also be an appreciation of his extraordinarily good job in all those years in our favourite magazine. I hope that this could be arranged quite 'officially', to show the readers' support to his cause.
Stefano

By StefanoP on 27 January, 2013, 8:46pm

Subscription

Such a shame....I propose to launch a subscription to help Mr Hales, a respected journalist and great driver, out of this mess. If every reader of Octane could send £1 or 2 to a bank account set up by Octane, the financial damage would be significantly reduced; it would also be an appreciation of his extraordinarily good job in all those years in our favourite magazine. I hope that this could be arranged quite 'officially', to show the readers' support to his cause.
Stefano

By StefanoP on 27 January, 2013, 9:11pm

Subscription

Such a shame....I propose to launch a subscription to help Mr Hales, a respected journalist and great driver, out of this mess. If every reader of Octane could send £1 or 2 to a bank account set up by Octane, the financial damage would be significantly reduced; it would also be an appreciation of his extraordinarily good job in all those years in our favourite magazine. I hope that this could be arranged quite 'officially', to show the readers' support to his cause.
Stefano

By StefanoP on 27 January, 2013, 9:23pm

Hung out to dry

With respect it is ludicrous that a EUR 37,000 case was allowed to spiral to a EUR 200,000 clusterf*k. This magazine (which I love) should have taken up the issue with AON at the beginning and/or covered the damage; not let a staff writer hang out to dry. Anyway, if it comes to it I'll drop in a fiver for Mr. Piper fund - but in the meantime I hope the magazine has taken it's "lesson learnt".

By magic_marker on 28 January, 2013, 9:52am

(... or not quite)

Now having read the full case I was hasty in my judgement - it seems Octane has actually done it's best under the circumstances (i.e. syndicated article and writing the above article). So mea culpa.

By magic_marker on 28 January, 2013, 3:23pm

Quantum of loss

Clearly the quantum of loss that Hales suffered is beyond anything any journalist would ever be expected to sign up for, and our treasured Octane magazine were supposed to be standing the insurance in exchange for first publishing rights.

We owe it to Hales to settle the judgement, however unfair we all think it is, but it would be most helpful for the Octane management to make clear precisely what they are providing as assistance over and above the link here. I've added a solid donation as I'd like Hales to continue doing what he does, but it would be heartening to read those with deeper pockets have taken their share of this pain..

By DaytonaJohn on 29 January, 2013, 1:55pm

Quantum of loss


By deeper pockets I am referring to those who have benefited commercially for many years from the sort of piece that Hales' produces..

By DaytonaJohn on 29 January, 2013, 1:57pm

Piper is a dickhead

The title says it all.

By Aussieben on 1 February, 2013, 11:41am

MH/Octane - how can we help from overseas!?

I learnt English reading Doug Nye, LJK Setright, Nick Mason, Mark Hales, etc - not only are they writers who can drive, but the far rarer breed of drivers who can write. MH's inspired me to become a freelance motor-journo, and I've test-driven round the world for my local English magazines, as well as raced in some great cars on superb tracks. Many of my drives have been in multi-million dollar cars and all the owners have done nothing but encourage me towards their prized-possessions' redlines... I sincerely feel for MH - I'm sure he has an overseas fanbase that would love to help. Including me. Mr Piper may have won one case, but he will have lost many friends.

By flameboy on 1 February, 2013, 1:32pm

on second thought...

what about appealing this case? MH fans chipping in to help him out is all good and well - but if this legal precedent hangs above the heads of every editor and publisher, then that's it for us dreamers who'll never get closer to a Tyrrell 6-wheeler, 906 GTS or an Aurelia Spider than our nearest newsstand...

By flameboy on 1 February, 2013, 2:28pm

Sad

This should have been discussed with a clear understanding who pays for what before the car is taken out
If an engine breaks, how can any person, judge or otherwise put blame onto the driver.
The fact remains that anything mechanical can break, especially if the 917 replica has been sitting around not doing anything, the less exercise machines with a mechanical nature has, the more chance of it breaking
I believe the magazine have a part responsibility also
If Mr Piper was not prepared to pay, or cover the cars engine, he should not have loaned it out
I am also surprised that this is a replica

By andyj288 on 1 February, 2013, 4:29pm

PhotoMedia

Piper is an avarice A.H.

By PhotoMedia on 5 February, 2013, 1:21am

Why all the venom?

In his summing-up of the case, the judge described the defendant as being dishonest and inconsistent in his version of events.
In any case, while missing a gear buzzing the engine when fighting for the lead in a race is regrettable, doing it when you're a hack peddling the car round for photos is pretty unforgivable.
Even if the car had jumped out of gear (which I understand was the second version of the story), should you really be jumping on the throttle pedal as if you're Jo Siffert, when all you're racing is a Peugeot estate with a photographer in the boot?

Mr Piper is an OAP with no regular income - his cars are his pension. Doing £40K damage to the car, and then shrugging it off as 's**t happens' is akin to the bankers wiping out your pension fund and smirking before moving onto the next champagne bar.

Besides, even if I loaned someone my humble road car and they blew up the engine, I'd be a bit narked if they refused to repair it.

By Stod67 on 10 February, 2013, 4:50pm

Replica?

It is a sorry state of affairs that this unfortunate incident has blown up in this way. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the 'blame game' all be it a very expensive one, I was surprised to see the car now referred to as a REPLICA. Could anyone confirm, by replica, are they referring to the paint job, or is it not one of the originals?

By robfinegan on 1 March, 2013, 12:52pm

Irresponsible journos

Far from David Piper being a dickhead, the dickhead was the journalist who was too mean to take out mechanical insurance. In these cases, it is ALWAYS accepted that the driver is responsible for ANY damage. If the driver can't afford unlimited liability, they take out insurance, it is as simple as that. In addition, I understand from reading about the case that Hales was totally irresponsible by continuing to drive the car AFTER he had overrev'd it and this was what caused the worst of the damage.

The INDEPENDENT judge's summing up of the driver as being "dishonest and inconsistent" in his version of the events says it all really.

By Judge on 1 March, 2013, 3:05pm

The lawyers are the only ones that win - every time

This should never have gone to court; Mark is a very experienced driver, and whatever happened, S-h-1-T does happen from time to time to all of us...what matters now is to relieve the stress for Mark, ask everyone who reads this to contribute £10, and just 12,000 or so car mad enthusiasts will have sorted this sordid problem for him. Perhaps in future, for the good of us all, a written agreement is put in place for high value cars - or cars with any value for that matter - to be tested to a limit, whatever that is, without this massive burden placed on the journalist who ultimately gives us the pleasure of finding out how these cars perform today.

Pay attention everybody!....No-one in this thread has actually said they've coughed up any money !
Do it now - I contributed £25 last week....Good luck Mark!

By GotMyFootDown on 5 March, 2013, 6:37pm

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