Piper v Hales: Porsche 917 & A Very Big Bill

by on January 20, 2013

Judgement has apparently been issued in the case of Piper v Hales: damage to the engine of David Piper’s Porsche 917 while it was being driven by Mark Hales for a magazine article.

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The court has reportedly ruled for David Piper. Hales must pay the repair bill plus loss and costs of £50k, Piper’s legal bill of £63K and his own legal costs of something circa £50k. That’s £163k if they choose not to appeal: maybe £200K+ if they do.

Two threads running on Pistonheads are filled with opinion, but also some interesting allegations from those in the know who watched the trial unfold in court. You could find these with a google but forgive me for declining to comment.

Here’s a link to a Doug Nye interview with David Piper back in 2001, where Piper lays out his stall on the inherent paddock agreement for borrowed racing cars. Piper came from farmboy beginnings to what he’s achieved, so no surprise that principles of who pays for what are important to him.

Porsche 917 engine David Piper

“So I prefer drivers who are mechanically sympathetic, and there are a lot of capable guys who would love to race a prototype Ferrari without the cost of buying one. Fortunately, the Ferraris are inherently robust. The basic understanding is `you bend it, you mend it’, although I take care of mechanical failures – unless the engine has been seriously over-revved – and of course I seek to provide a car that is absolutely safe.”

The costs for Hales are stomach churning, but involvement is a conscious decision. You’ve got to be super cagey nowadays on what you drive for features. I know I’m no hot shoe and drive all as such. The owner is usually sitting alongside me when I’m in their car, and I’m usually first to lift off as I have nothing to prove and everything to lose. I’ve never had to ring a PR to tell them their car is hanging off a mountain *touch wood*. Some of what this case raises will inform my future decisions.

Porsche 917 engine

One big reminder here on how settling disputes in court is seldom worth the outcome. I’ve had a day or two in court in my time and know how it feels to be twisted by legals. I’m disappointed for both sides here: no one is a winner.

Peter Hall January 21, 2013 at 5:24 am

This is an appalling outcome. May we have a comment from the commissioning magazine?

John January 21, 2013 at 5:17 pm

I don’t know that it was a commission, Peter. Think it was a Hales piece that Porsche World & Auto Italia bought into? I don’t have a professional association with Porsche World any more.

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