Skip navigation
 
Miscellaneous 60

Mark Hales found liable in Piper case

A court case that has been rumbling on for many months finally reached its conclusion last week. It held that motoring journalist and racing driver Mark Hales was liable for the damage that occurred to the engine of a Porsche 917 that blew up while he was driving it for a track test feature for another title.

I don’t feel I can talk publically about many details of the case: I wasn’t there at the time and Mark’s been a friend for 25 years, someone I’ve always liked as a person and admired massively for his depressingly enormous talent behind the wheel of old racing cars. I have spoken at length to him about the case but not at all to David Piper, the former racing driver who owned the 917 at the time and brought the action. I am clearly in no position to view this objectively and you will have no trouble seeing where my sympathies lie.

miscellaneous  Mark Hales found liable in Piper case

I will say however that not a single person I’ve spoken to, which includes not just other motoring journalists but also racing drivers, car dealers and others in and on the periphery of this industry thinks that Hales, who now faces a six figure bill for costs and damages, has been anything other than very harshly treated.

You may wonder why this is. According to a story in the Daily Telegraph, Piper’s case was that Hales was in the car on a ‘bend it, mend it’ basis so as I understand it, it boiled down to deciding whether the engine blew while Hales was in the car, or whether it blew because Hales was in the car – i.e. he missed a gear that shouldn’t have been missed and buzzed the motor. The court took the latter view.

Unsurprisingly, the case has set the remote enclave of the Twittersphere in which motoring writers reside ablaze. And amid the outpourings of support for Hales and some perhaps less generous observations about Piper, talk has turned to the future of car testing in magazines.

Those of you who are regular readers of the print version of Motor Sport will know I have a vested interest here. Over the last 16 years I’ve been working for the title it has been my very great fortune to have driven many dozens of racing cars for track tests of the kind in which Hales was involved. And now many are suggesting these days are over; that no journalist will climb aboard these cars knowing the liability they might face, and that no owner will indemnify a journalist against all and any damage caused while they are at the wheel. One, perhaps a little hysterically, has suggested that even the Goodwood Revival might be threatened, I guess because an owner could in theory at least send the bill for a blown engine to the professional racing driver who was on board when it went bang. Whether a court would then cite this new precedent and insist he pays it is another matter.

miscellaneous  Mark Hales found liable in Piper case

My experience as perhaps the third most experienced British motoring journalist currently regularly testing old racing cars for car titles (after, of course, the inestimable Tony Dron) is that this is all a bit over the top. But however hard I look at it, I can only conclude that Hales has simply been appallingly unlucky and that what happened to him will remain the exception rather than the rule in future.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but my experience of owners who have let me drive their cars is that they are generous, trusting enthusiasts who understand the risks entirely and are perfectly happy to shoulder them themselves, partly because they can afford to, but more importantly, they want to see their cars in the magazine for all sorts of obvious reasons. Had Mark been some inexperienced idiot with no mechanical sympathy then Piper’s position would be easier to understand. But Mark is not an idiot; he is a professional racing driver and tutor of many decades standing. Had that not been the case I doubt Piper would have let him near the car.

Where does this leave track testing in car magazines? For some time now I have explained to owners that if I am to drive their car they must remain liable for anything that happens while I’m on board. I simply couldn’t afford to do it any other way. You can see this as me covering my own backside – and you’d not be wrong – but it is chiefly a courtesy because if I’m going to hurl someone else’s rare and precious racer around a track, I feel the least I can do is be transparent about the basis on which I do so. And to date not one has thought better of it and walked away from the arrangement. To me, it goes to show how unfortunate Hales was to have encountered an owner unprepared to accept that sometimes things go wrong when even the best old cars are driven by the best track testers and instead elects to hound him through the courts for damages that I for one could not remotely afford.

I hope Mark continues to test and race competition cars – our little world would be poorer without his input. There are plans afoot among our community to try to do something to help so if you use Twitter follow the tag #markhalesinvitationaltrophy or I’ll keep you updated at @Andrew_Frankel.

Update: For more information about how you can help Mark’s cause, visit www.savethehales.com.

miscellaneous  Mark Hales found liable in Piper case

Add your comments

60 comments on Mark Hales found liable in Piper case

  1. PeteH, 22 January 2013 09:41

    I would like to know Pipes’ side of the story, but for now my respect for him is on a very tight leash.

  2. Richard Haith, 22 January 2013 09:53

    I think Piper should drop it instantly or suffer a massive reduction in respect from the racing fraternity.

  3. GP, 22 January 2013 10:05

    As a solicitor, I have read the full judgement. I think the judge applied the law correctly on the evidence presented. However I can’t understand why Hales’ team didn’t present engineering evidence to back up his contention about a gearbox fault.

    As a petrolhead and avid reader of track tests however, I feel that this is a desperately sad situation that simply should not have got this far. Like Mr Frankel I fear for the implications. Hopefully the racing community will take the common sense view but unfortunately there is always someone who will try to benefit from a legal precedent.

    Clearly I don’t know the full facts but given Pipes allegedly sold the car for upwards of £1m a few months later, surely £40k for an engine rebuild is small beer for the publicity generated by Hales’ article?

  4. Paul Fearnley, 22 January 2013 10:24

    The ‘deal’ always used to be: the magazine’s insurance covers all accident damage, including third party, but not the engine or gearbox. No insurer I spoke with would cover that. Not even the marine insurer Motor Sport used for its Auto Union D-type run.

    Also I have been lucky enough to sit alongside several bigger-name drivers in a variety of equipment old and modern, yet Mark in a 968CS in the wet at Donington Park remains a highlight. He’s good. Annoyingly so.

    Finally, one little bit of advice to testers: whenever you think, ‘Right, one more lap’, pit before you start that lap. It worked for me for what it’s worth.

  5. John Smith, 22 January 2013 11:02

    Hales made a false statement to his insurance company or the court (reference to the note produced in court). You can’t play it both ways. A sound legal judgement.

  6. Barrie, 22 January 2013 11:24

    I am pretty sure that sticking to 7000 rpm the engine would be quite safe but if one is driving at top speed which he should not have been doing, missing a gear would be catastrophic for the 917 engine. He knew the rules and should pay….fast too.

  7. Dave Davies, 22 January 2013 13:00

    Although I have sympathy for the situation Hales has found himself in, I can also understand Piper’s actions, although I do agree it would probably have been better from a PR standpoint for Pipes to just drop it. Remember that racing drivers hold journalists’ driving talents in notoriously low esteem, unless of course they also happen to be retired successful drivers themselves. If a journo took my pride and joy for a spin and brought it back with a blown engine, I might feel justified in asking for a contribution.

    So it seems Piper agreeed to let Hales drive the seven figure valued 917 on a you-bend-it-you-mend-it basis. If I was to enter into such an agreement on a test drive (and I probably wouldn’t), I think I’d make absolutely sure I was insured up to the max and let the underwriters take the hit. That said, the premium would probably be in the same order of magnitude as the cost of the engine rebuild.

  8. Mario Carneiro Neto, 22 January 2013 13:10

    I don’t feel well reading about this, I don’t know why. I understand the law was correctly applied, but as a reader I’ve always wondered how these tests came about, and it seems to me it is simply a matter of a gentleman’s agreement about this sort of thing. Everyone qualified to drive one of these knows how temperamental these cars are, and should be aware of the risks. That includes the owners. I think Piper will get a lot of backlash…

  9. John B Lewis, 22 January 2013 13:53

    I drove Piper’s 250 LM at Mugello some years ago. Someone spun in front of me, I missed a gear, put 9000 rpm on the clock and half a lap later the engine blew. My hand on the gearlever, my foot on the throttle. No argument, I hastened the engine time expiry., I went to see Piper on our return and gave him a cheque. He was an absolute gentleman about the whole affair. John B Lewis. Gloucestershire.

  10. Pete, 22 January 2013 14:33

    No more Octane for me.

  11. Dee Edwards, 22 January 2013 14:34

    I hope piper is ashamed for not only taking this to court but for the far reaching consequences his actions will have on the sport we all love

  12. Mark Oldfield, 22 January 2013 15:09

    It is worth reading the full summing up of the Judge.
    Mr Hales came out of it in a very poor light and was thought an uncredible witness .
    He did not help his case by stating in writing
    “I admit the damage was caused to the engine by my failure to select the gear correctly”.
    A shame,but I(and obviously the Judge) felt that the claimant had made a justified claim.

  13. Simon Craven, 22 January 2013 16:00

    Andrew,
    My natural sympathies are also with Mark and this is a sad situation. However, when made his written statement that “There was no fault apparent with the car before this incident, and I admit the damage to the engine was caused by my failure to select the gear” then frankly it was only going to go one way in court.
    In reference to your comment: “Whether a court would then cite this new precedent and insist he pays it is another matter” this case does not set any legal precedent. The case was decided on its own facts and the outcome does not bind any successor court.
    But I agree the case may well deter people from testing valuable cars in future, given the unavailability of insurance at affordable prices for many of the potential liabilities one takes on in driving other people’s multi-million pound racing cars.

  14. john, 22 January 2013 16:32

    It is know that a rent-a-drive with Piper is a major risk. You typically get the car you are paying for to race with an engine that has far too many hours and is ready to go bang. A great way for Piper to get a free rebuild……….Hales should have knowm this, unfortunately. I am sure he never ever reached any limits on the car or its engine.

  15. James, 22 January 2013 18:48

    I once had a racecar.It was only worth £3K, but it was just about the only thing I owned in life,but it was probably as significant an asset to me as the 917 was to Piper.I lent it to another trusted journalist for a test.There was no agreement beforehand. He took a risk in driving a car I had bolted together. I look a risk in lending it to him. Even if he had crashed it, I would have accepted that it was my risk, not his. I chose to put him in the car because I trusted him based on his record. Every racing driver can make a mistake and I believe if you put someone in your car you have to accept this is part of the deal too.

    Why did I want to do this with something that represented the majority of my assets at the time? I wanted to promote my sponsors and get them in a magazine. At the back of my mind, I also thought a gushing article may add a couple of hundred quid to the car value at the end of the season.

    Maybe Piper thought this would increase the value of his car? Maybe he also wanted a few column inches? He didn’t have to lend the car.I’m sure he had reasons,like I had mine.

    I met Mark for the first time around six years ago and since then we have done business several times on the basis of a handshake.There are very few people I would trust my company’s business to without a contract.

    Having learnt about this case, there’s now one more person I’d add to my ‘be very wary’ list. And it isn’t Mark.

    And I hope that car owners, whether it’s a £3K sheds like mine or a Le Mans winner,continue to let trusted writers inspire others with their words.

  16. Jonathan Layzell, 22 January 2013 20:35

    I don’t know Mark Hales personally but I’ve been watching him race, and reading his articles, for 20 years. I’ve also been watching David Piper’s cars race and have got enormous pleasure from both.

    The market for old racing cars is – in part – a product of the enthusiasm generated by the types of article which take the reader into the driving seat of cars such as the Porsche 917.

    Cars such as this are valuable not because the engineering within them is hyper-expensive but because their history and heritage and the wish to share in that history is highly coveted. Their value is greater than the sum of their parts. What is more, as a proportion of its total value, the cost of a replacing the engine in a Porsche 917 is no more significant than me needing to change the oil and the front brake pads on my 8 year old Honda.

    I don’t know the details of the case, or the agreement between the men but what is clear is that the means of motoring journalists and publishing houses are not enough to cover the risk of this recurring and I am concerned about the impact which this will have on motoring journalism and historic Motorsport.

    I feel privileged that those fortunate enough to have the means to run and race these cars share their passion. As a TVR owner I also know that exotic cars in general, and racing cars in particular, are fragile and that one of the trade offs which comes from the glamour and the adulation which custodianship brings is that they are costly to maintain and that they will go wrong eventually.

    @jjlayzell

  17. Rohan Schloithe, 22 January 2013 21:04

    How about when Richard Hammond had a tyre blow out at high speed in that jet dragster he had a drive of a couple of years ago. Did either party sue the other over that? Hammond nearly lost his life in that car and Piper is complaining about the cost of the engine?

    If there was an issue with the gearbox in the Porsche, wouldn’t it be David’s fault for not keeping the maintenance up on the car? Surely he would not have taken the car to the next race meeting like that?

  18. Richard, 22 January 2013 21:22

    While he may have won in court Piper has not come out of this looking good and in my opinion rightly so. Some mistakes seem to have been made by the defence, arguably bias was shown by the judge toward the claimant making allowances for his vagueness, and unfortunately for Mark the law seems to have been applied to the letter.

    It’s clear however that the majority of fans and the motoring press are not behind David Piper. If you have the money to own one of these cars and you loan it to someone to test you should be aware things can go wrong. The engine blew at 7200, however these were originally rated to 8,000 plus, and if it was fragile why didn’t it have a rev limiter?

    Mark is a racing driver of 36 years standing, very experienced in all sorts of cars, widely respected and a decent fellow. The legal battle did not go well for him but I hope he can pick himself up and carry on, I want to see him racing again and soon!

  19. Aaron Lewis, 22 January 2013 21:55

    While I agree with this article there is one aspect that may be getting missed. The assumption that every owner who has had his car damaged by a professional racer at meetings such as Goodwood. Isn’t it true that there have been some seriously aggrieved owners who have been shattered by the experience of major damage to a prized possession and then appalled by the “tough luck that’s racing” attitude of the driver?
    The argument about just how hard historic cars should be driven and what level of risk should be taken is a closely aligned topic – especially when using another another’s property.
    I also know Mark a little and feel great sympathy for what has happened.

  20. Aaron Lewis, 22 January 2013 22:03

    Typo correction. Please add to the sentance.

    …meetings such as Goodwood “is satisfied with the outcome and happy to accept all costs associated.”

  21. Richard, 22 January 2013 23:14

    Cars can be and often are insured for racing, (in this case the engine was exempt) the drivers at Goodwood are professional and experienced so risk tends to be relatively low but racing is racing and accidents and breakages do happen, it really is part of the life. Sure there’s a cost but there’s a lot to gain too, the cars go up in value significantly if the results are good in classic racing.

    I really hope classic events like the Revival aren’t sanitised by paperwork or excessively careful driving now that the risk for the drivers is so high. Let’s hope common sense prevails!

  22. Kevin, 23 January 2013 00:43

    This is a very poor piece of writing and certainly not worthy of Motor Sport. Quite unbelievable you have made no effort to obtain details of the trial. I feel sorry for Mark too but this article is seriously imbalanced.

  23. PC, 23 January 2013 01:35

    In the interests of balanced journalism, as opposed to an emotive knee jerk, have any of the motoring journalists concerned actually spoken to David or Liz to get their side of the story?

  24. Sam Hancock, 23 January 2013 11:30

    Think the key here is if you’re driving in the capacity of a professional or not for the benefit of the owner (be that publicity for his car, coaching etc). I am incredibly lucky to earn my living as a paid racing driver, and often coach private clients in their own, prized cars as well as conduct track tests for magazines such as this one. In my view (I know, I would say this…), if an owner carefully chooses a professional driver, he is making that selection based on the driver’s abilities, reputation, experience etc. But at some points in motor sport, “sh*t happens”, and in reality there are some circumstances in which you can never be 100% sure if it’s because of driver error, poor preparation, faulty/weak components, parts which are not suitably ‘lifed’ and so on. I’m not saying this situation wasn’t pure driving error, sounds like it was, but in my view Hales was participating as a carefully selected professional, the inference being that the owner accepts the risks, however uncomfortable. If there was a specific arrangement between them for this test however that differed from this, then of course that’s different. But just as Audi won’t have sent McNish a bill for his massive Le Mans shunt (driver error), I don’t get bills if I have a racing accident, and (while it’s never happened..) I wouldn’t expect a bill for dropping a client’s car if demonstrating/coaching “on the limit” track driving – you accept that what is entirely at risk if you cock up is: your job, being invited back, your reputation, maybe even life and limb… but not a lifetime of debt.

  25. Sam Hancock, 23 January 2013 11:39

    Just chatting on this on Facebook, and would like to add his thoughts to my comment above because he made me think. While I stand by my thoughts above in regard to the broader topic, my friend just made the point that in this instance, the car was hired by MH for his commercial gain…. I’ll paste his words as he puts the case quite eloquently:

    “Its clearly complicated but ultimately the car was rented for the sum of £2000 and MH was driving it for his own commercial gain. It is an entirely different situation if you are a professional being paid to drive it as you are and McNish was, that is part of racing and everyone knows it and accidents happen. This was a car hired to make money from and had to be returned in the condition in which it was borrowed, this was not a mechanical failure but a driver error.”

    I hate to say it because I really feel for Mark on this one, but I do think this is relevant consideration.

  26. Stephen p, 23 January 2013 11:54

    I’m amazed that Piper has pursued this – he comes out of it looking absolutely appalling.

    You lend a highly fragile (even in period the 917 was both hard to drive and easy to break) racecar to a race driver, you mut be prepared to shoulder resulting costs. If missing a gear always resulted in engine failure I would have done t least 5 engines last season.

    Piper now looks like a pariah in Motorsport. “You bend it, you mend it” does not apply to millionaire hobbyists who lend their car to relatively poor race drivers. If it did, the Revival would die, and interest, and therefore values of, old race cars would plummet.

  27. Jim St. George, 23 January 2013 13:36

    My sympathies to everyone involved. My two cents is this:

    Cars – especially racing cars – should never be so precious in the first place. They aren’t made of gold. And they wouldn’t be so terribly interesting if modern racecars weren’t as – how shall I say it? – emasculated as they are. Oh, well. You break it, you buy it, I guess.

  28. VK, 23 January 2013 17:45

    What nonsense is being written here. You bend it you mend it or you insure. He over revved it. End of story. Gearbox fault is nonsense, gearboxes jump out if gear into neutral they don’t jump from 5th to 3rd and blow the engine. Don’t borrow someone’s multi million pound car and leave them with a £40k rebuild and walk away. That he now has huge legal bills to face is his own fault, he should have agreed a deal with David..

  29. Eugene O'Brien, 23 January 2013 18:42

    The car owner and the driver could easily sign a one paragraph agreement before the car leaves the pit lane. It is simple and inexpensive these days to have an on-board camera (with microphone) on a race car, it takes 5 minutes to fit. If an accident or mechanical failure is clearly down to driver error I think the driver should shoulder at least some responsibility. If the failure is not clearly down to driver error then the owner should be 100% liable for repair costs.

  30. VK, 23 January 2013 19:12

    PS David Piper is not a millionaire hobbyist he’s a racing driver who started with a lot less than mark hales, and isn’t in the business of rebuilding race engines for fun or for free. Nor are those engines fragile, they’ll run forever as long as they are kept as sensible revs. David knows and has proven in court the engine failed due to being over revved and those of us who race know how that happens, and it’s 99% driver error unless the throttle jams open and rev limiter fails simultaneously, unlikely to say the least…

  31. John B, 23 January 2013 20:38

    I don’t have a problem with this article. It’s made quite clear at the start its one side if the story only and therefore unbalanced. It is therefore difficult to make up my mind about this. I can see merit on both sides. Lets just hope common seance prevails in regards to the continued use of these magnificent machines.

  32. John Deverell, 23 January 2013 21:16

    So lets get this into perspective,if you hire a car
    especially a race car you are only liable for damage
    caused by rock Ape driving damaging the cars chassis or bodywork ,not for mechanical failures it would be interesting
    to see Pipers insurance details on the car and maybe he had
    mechanical failure built into the policy.
    If you let someone track test a race car the responsibility
    lies with the owner,this is a old historic race car
    and no guarantee can be given to the engine matter if its
    reving on the red line or tick over

  33. David Walton, 23 January 2013 23:32

    Perhaps Mark should send Mr Piper a bill for the enhanced value that this car will have thanks to it’s noteriety, sorry, provenance, now that it is a ‘significant car’ albeit for all the wrong reasons…?

    One of the key reasons owners of historic cars allow such tests is that it adds to the history of the car, it’s fame and by definition it’s value, simply in exchange for a few laps in the car by the scribbler.

    Mark is one of the most technically savvy blokes around. This is terrible.

  34. Ed Moore, 24 January 2013 08:46

    Just appalling and so sad and hugely disappointed to read this. I do work in the industry and I have always made any owner aware that if they wish me to drive their pride and joy it is at their risk and I get them to sign an indemnity to this effect as well (for what it’s worth).

    The damage this could have to our industry is huge and I feel huge sympathy for Mark Hales.

    Regards

    Ed Moore

  35. Ivan Carlos Ruchesi, 24 January 2013 11:18

    As Richard pointed out, why the engine didn’t have a rev limiter?
    The early 917 as Piper’s was known for requiring careful gear shifting, especially with the 5th gear which was easily mistaken, which blew a number of engines. That fault in the gear box was apparently solved in the latest versions of the car.
    By reading some books on the 917, I found a well known driver couldn’t get a drive for an important sports car racing team at the time because of missing a gear, over revving the engine and blowing the engine when testing the car in front of the team managers. It even happened to great drivers such as Siffert at the ’70 Le Mans race!
    Such was the danger that Richard Attwood choose to disable 5th and to race only four gears at that race, in order to avoid any risk to the engine and make the distance.
    So the writing is on the wall: put reliable rev limiters to the engines of those marvelous and expensive old race cars, they can save a lot of money and legal charges…

  36. Alex Harmer, 24 January 2013 12:44

    From Mark’s legal team:

    http://www.trackdriver.com/Response%20to%20Judgement%20-%20Piper%20v%20Hales.pdf

    Pretty interesting. If it all went down as it says here, then he’s had an awful time of it.

    ACH

  37. R.E.B, 24 January 2013 18:32

    A most unfortunate case, and another that whatever the rights a wherefores, I cannot help feeling that the lawyers have once again triumphed at the expense of common sense and simple humanity. I for one would feel uncomfortable persuing someone as a consequence of an honest mistake for damages he could not afford anyway, and by the same token would feel rather abashed at having grenaded someone elses 917. Could they not have agreed a split between parts and labour?

  38. John B, 24 January 2013 19:06

    The response also puts to bed those shameful forum-esque ramblings about “false statements”. I never believed them despite reading the judgement, simply based on what little I know of Hales. I was very pleased to hear the other side of the story, and he clearly took a pasting by a decent silk.

    I did also feel for Piper in as much as he’d suffered a loss, but then I learn that the bitsa car sold for over £1m after the event, and that the engine that Hales ran wasn’t allowed to rev to the full quotient. The mistake (and whether the mistake was singularly Hales, or Piper’s mechanic aside) appeared pretty slight and wouldn’t have buzzed a good engine..

    One also imagines that the one that sold for £1.2m did rev to the full quotient, it being a fresh engine and all, so therefore he’d done rather well out of the whole thing long before he’d reached the High Court.

    I do keep reading about why this wasn’t settled. Do wish people would just pay attention; Hales wasn’t the one negotiating until it was all too late was he.

  39. Ivor McDonald, 24 January 2013 19:44

    It doesn’t look great for future track tests.
    I think Mark would be best served getting some advice on declaring himself bankrupt, it might appear a little extreme at first, but trying to pay £120.000 is going to do it to him anyway.
    But I wish him well and hope it gets sorted in a sensible manner, I came across Mark in the 1980′s when I worked in production saloons, he would race occasionally in a Opel Monza I think, but he was always straight on the pace, that’s how good he was.
    We also let a very young journalist who I believe is no longer with us have a go in our Golf GTI,he put it on its roof, but we took it on the chin, we were more concerned for his well being.

  40. R.E.B, 24 January 2013 22:08

    Further to the above I have just read the Judge Simon Brown’s summation of the case and it has to be said that he reached the only logical legal judgment available. Mr Hales did not help his credibility in the eyes of the court by changing his story. But I still feel it is a bit rough to sue a journalist for a sum he manifestly cannot pay! This was not vandalism, just a bad day at the office and there but for the grace of god etc. A bad episode for both parties.

  41. John B, 25 January 2013 00:33

    If you’ve read the judgement you should read the formal response Dear Boy. It’s arguable if he did change his story at all..

  42. R.E.B, 25 January 2013 13:43

    I have read the response as well. The fact is that Mr Hales said one thing in his statement to Octane’s insurers and another thing in court. Definately shot himself in the foot there. Nevertheless, I really do not think I would have had the heart to sue Mr Hales as Piper did, but soft heartedness like that is probably one of the reasons Iam not a millionaire! I suppose that if 15000 people each donate a tenner to the fund it will clear this debt for him. My contribution is on its way!

  43. Richard, 25 January 2013 17:30

    R.E.B – Kindly, I think you’ve missed the part in the legal team’s response indicating that the full content of the letter to the insurance company was not considered or understood well in court, it seems that part of it was taken without greater context and used by Piper’s team against MH.

    Unfortunately the Judge simply didn’t understand the implications of a badly adjusted selector mechanism. The Porsche mechanic declined to make the adjustment MH asked for after the first lap test.

  44. Ben H, 25 January 2013 19:45

    Anyone who has seen or read a David Piper interview must think that he is a gent of the old school and reading the comments below from people that have met him I cannot believe otherwise. I do wonder if Mark Hales’ mistake was behaving like an idiot the moment he broke the car. Reading the court transcript he seems to have attempted to transfer the blame as soon as it was physically possible. How disappointing it is that a cabal of motoring journalists seem to have taken to twitter and other outlets to defend their man rather than recognising that Hales’ churlish behaviour seems to have got him into trouble and most probably debt.

  45. richard huggins, 28 January 2013 13:56

    I find it hard to believe that a man of considerable wealth has
    taken this course of action against a journalist who enjoys a
    mutual interest. David Piper owns cars worth many millions of
    of pounds, and I for one would like to see him barred from
    membrship of the various historic clubs and organisations, for
    not participating in the true spirit of things and bringing a nasty
    taste to what is a great sport. I would also be happy to put a few quid in a kitty to help Mark if there is a fund going for that
    purpose.

  46. GP, 29 January 2013 08:58

    Richard, there is a paypal account with a link on the Track Driver website

  47. david, 31 January 2013 15:50

    Interesting comment above regarding the purported well-known risk of renting from Mr. Piper. On the other hand, if that was in fact the case, one presumes that Mark Hales would be as savvy and well-connected in that regard as anyone and so should perhaps have been better protected. Perhaps, owners approaching magazines to propose such tests (essentially for purposes of marketing their cars) should be held to a higher standard in terms of demonstrating the track worthiness of their vehicles.

    Having read the response of Mr Hales’ legal team to the judgment (linked in comments above – I recommend everyone read it), one wonders whether Octane conducted themselves as one might have hoped or expected given the aura of gentlemanly “Boys Own” bonhommie they so assiduously and carefully work to project.

    The difficulty from an economic perspective is that Mr. Hales was bearing the downside (i.e., costs of repairing any potential damage to the gearbox/engine) whereas Mr. Piper was in a position to fully capture any upside (i.e., boost in market value from exposure). Perhaps one way to ensure that these tests can continue to take place is to arrangements that better reflect a sharing of risk and reward.

  48. david, 31 January 2013 16:33

    From Chris Harris’ article:

    ” There’s an unspoken reciprocal situation too. What happens if a car suffers a mechanical failure and the journalist testing it is injured? If the driver is now responsible for the mechanical health of the car whilst he is driving it, surely the owner is now open to a claim if it can be proven that the car failed somehow?”

    This perhaps is the mechanism, further to my comment above, by which one can ensure that the vehicle is itself track worthy – have the owner accept liability for driver injury in the event of mechanical failure.

  49. SJay, 24 February 2013 09:20

    I agree with GP on this matter, but if there was a “gentlemen’s agreement”, then Mark certainly hasn’t honoured it. However, from Piper’s point of view, he has driven enough cars in his life to understand what happens on a race track. I suspect that over the years he has done very well out of the publicity that car magazines have generated for his cars. However, I cannot understand why Mark, or any other journalist for that matter, does not have adequate PI insurance to cover him, or for that matter, why neither party thought that damage could happen, and took adequate precautions to ensure that a suitable solution could be found forvthis very sad sequence of events.

  50. Keith Warden, 25 February 2013 14:57

    I have just read the judgement:
    http://www.leeds-solicitors.com/piperhales.pdf
    and I just cannot see how the judge could have concluded other than what he did. Mark Hales changed his statement from being his error to a mechanical failure, then came up with reasons for the failure well after the event and not backed up by sound evidence. Why did Mark Hales and Octane not get an engineer to look at the damage after the incident? Presumably because at the time they did not think it was a mechanical problem and therefore had to run around collecting potential theories well after the event. When I first read about this in Octane this lunchtime I said to my wife that there HAD to be something else otherwise David Piper would surely have settled out of court. After all, he had to risk legal fees himself. Having read the judgement, David Piper was being seriously messed about by people not being straight with him. Unfortunately I think this is all due to Octane and Mark Hales not getting ducks in a row beforehand regarding risk and liability and, far from being the death-knell of track tests, is simply a wake-up call to magazines and testers (and owners) to professionally set these matters up beforehand and walk away if they are in anyway unhappy at the results of the financial risk assessment that they MUST carry out.

  51. Liam Boyle, 26 February 2013 11:58

    I read all of the above, the judgement and other legal comment. I do not feel able to favour one side over the other but at the end of the day, a well respected and highly professional racing driver has been placed in serious financial difficulties simply by doing his job and I will act accordingly.

  52. Lee Williams, 28 February 2013 00:38

    Very sad episode – that should not have got anywhere near as far as it did.

    Lots of comments flying through my mind (as with most people, I imagine), but I cannot say if anyone has come of this with any credit.

  53. Andrew Komosa, 5 March 2013 08:33

    I met Mark at a Goodwood track day some years ago. He is a kind chap and a true gentleman and I would like to offer my services for free. I am a criminal & civil litigation solicitor who can be contacted evenings/weekends on 01306628320, should Mark need to speak to a professional on a pro bono basis. Regards.. Andrew

  54. Martin Sage, 23 April 2013 18:02

    Just a thought but even my Porsche 944S has a rev limiter which I think is set at 6500. Doesn’t a much more sophisticated Porsche 917 benefit from one?!

  55. David Hughes, 27 April 2013 20:02

    Surely the point here is not so much that ‘things can go wrong’ and we all know they can, but that in this case the car was lent on the basis that Piper was fully covered. If it had been lent on any other premise, then it would have been different, but why blame David Piper when all he wanted to do was to ensure this agreement was adhered to. Its a gentlemans agreement, and Hales, having made an honest error, should have kept his side of it.

  56. David Alexander, 27 June 2013 13:41

    Given that many of the facts, as opposed to opinion masquerading as fact, are now openly in the public domain including the judges harsh comments regarding Mark Hales, isn’t it time to revisit this case but with a somewhat more charitable view towards David Piper?

    I feel his has been treated appallingly by an uninformed media and surely some form of journalistic balance is now called for?

  57. Ralph Barlow, 22 July 2013 06:42

    Have come rather late to this discussion but for all those who have commented ” it should have had a rev limiter” it should be realised that such a device has absolutely no effect if a car is down changed when it shouldn’t have been.
    The inertia of the car will simply over drive the engine, cutting the spark will have no effect.

  58. john chillcott, 28 July 2013 21:30

    let my brother drive my track prepped Clio… 2nd lap a big off and clouted the barriers. £3500 later ive fixed it, refusing all offers, not because he is my brother but because i am an enthusiast. David Piper is a digrace and opens the doors to a risk averse appoach to our sport and enthusiasm. A sad day in court,
    please let Mark know there’s an earner waiting for him if he wants to give me the benefit of some car set up and driver tuition and if he writes the car off in the process, well we’ll have to laugh about it later over a pint

  59. john chillcott, 28 July 2013 21:57

    PS, i agree with the comment on the jolly nice chaps at Octane. Surely they could comfortably stump up a sum to sort this for Mark, or [ublish a spedcial edition to raise the funds from all the true enthusiasts out there?

  60. wacker, 12 February 2014 21:28

    Andrew,
    Do you have an address/email to David Piper? Knew him years ago, fancy chatting old memories.
    Which he will want paying for…
    Joke!
    But he’s like that, knows his worth, you practically had to pay him for shaking your hand! Well, why did you want to do that… because he was famous. And he risked his life getting famous. Must be worth a bob or two, mmm?
    An exaggeration, yes, but not far off, it depended who the shaker was.
    But his word was his word.
    He only once did something for free, he drove a young would-be racer he took a fancy too around Brands, showing him the line, in a Jag 3.8. I titled my memories of that ‘The Smell Of Burning Rubber’.
    Memories?
    Yes, I was in the back with Ecclestone and Stephen Ward.
    ‘Once’… twice, actually. Ward could drive Piper’s cars anytime he wanted, for free, petrol too, as he had engineered Piper getting the cash to buy his Ferraris.
    As to this case, so expensive cars (bikes) mean insurances must be arranged, contracts draw-up as to who pays what if it does bang, sponsors to share the load.

Similar content

Newey

Adrian Newey on the 2014 regulations

07/02/14

Adrian Newey, interviewed before the first test, talks about the new regulations in Formula 1 and how difficult they’ve been

Ash

In memoriam: Kevin Ash

24/01/13

The name might not be familiar to many who visit this site, but the passing of Kevin Ash leaves a …

DSC_4603

Mark Hales found liable in Piper case

22/01/13

A court case that has been rumbling on for many months finally reached its conclusion last week. It held that …

Author

MB220S_FHR_018

Andrew Frankel

Read Andrew's profile and more …