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    Thread: Motoring journalist sued after $2m porsche engine explodes

    1. Member Phunkshon's Avatar
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      01-20-2013 03:17 PM #1


      An ex-Formula One driver is suing a motoring journalist after his classic racing car's engine blew up during a test drive, telling the High Court: "if you bend it, you mend it".

      David Piper allowed Mark Hales, an experienced racing driver and freelance writer, to take his treasured Porsche 917 for a spin on a test track for a magazine article.
      But disaster struck when the engine on the green-and-white vintage motor - valued at £1.25m - failed catastrophically as Mr Hales drove it around the course.
      Mr Piper claims the damage was caused by Mr Hales failing to engage the right gear and "over-revving" the engine and wants him to pay for the repairs the car needed.
      He told London's High Court: "If you bend it, you mend it."
      The 82-year-old, of London Road, Windlesham, Surrey, is seeking around £50,000 for the cost of fixing the engine, which had to be shipped to Germany for specialist repair and the "loss of use" he endured while the car was out of action.

      Mr Hales, 62, of Fen Lane, Conisholme, Lincolnshire, denies any liability to pay and contends that a "mechanical failure" caused the car to slip out of gear.
      The court heard Mr Hales drove the Porsche around a track at Cadwell Park, near Louth, Linconshire, in April 2009 so he could write an article for Auto Italia magazine comparing the car with another classic motor from the same era - a Ferrari 512S.
      Mr Hales has an extensive track record of racing cars and has won around 150 races during his 30 years' experience of driving as both an amateur and professional.
      He paid Mr Piper a "bail fee" of £2,000 to use the 917 and took it around the course several times without incident.
      But, as he completed a lap of the track, the engine blew up - causing devastating damage which cost nearly £40,000 to repair.
      The iconic car, which was sold by Mr Piper in July last year, was repaired by a Porsche specialist and continues to be driven in classic races.
      Mr Piper's lawyers told Judge Simon Brown QC it was agreed that the damage was caused by the over-revving of the engine to 8,200rpm, and that Mr Hales was 'expressly warned' to ensure the revs did not exceed 7,000rpm.
      His barrister, Alexander Wright, said: "The central factual dispute is not over the mechanical cause of the damage, but as to why the engine over revved as it did.
      "There are two competing theories - the claimant's case is that the defendant, despite the very clear instructions given, failed to engage gear. He missed gear going into third causing the engine to over-rev and leading to damage.
      "The defendants say there was an inherent and pre-existing mechanical fault in the gear box so that the gears didn't properly lock and engage and slipped out of gear."
      When quizzed by Mr Hales' lawyers about the possibility of a fault with the car's gearbox, Mr Piper denied there was any problem.
      He said: "If there was any question of a gearbox problem, I would have asked him to stop and not drive any more."
      During his 15 years of motor racing, from 1955 to 1970, Mr Piper's successes included seven wins out of nine in the Nine Hour Endurance Race at Kyalami, South Africa, and he took part in three Formula One World Championship Grands Prix.
      He also drove cars for the Ferrari, Ford and Porsche factories and owns another Porsche 917 which he has had since 1969.
      The 917 was created in response to a rule change in endurance racing and gave the German car firm its first overall wins in the legendary 24-hour Le Mans race in the early 1970s.
      Known for its high speeds and enormous power outputs, a 917 was featured in the 1971 Steve McQueen film, Le Mans - during the filming of which Mr Piper suffered an accident that cut short his professional racing career.

      The hearing continues.
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/...-explodes.html

    2. Member dubjager's Avatar
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      01-20-2013 03:21 PM #2
      Always wondered about what would happen if a classic car like that was broken by a journalist.

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      01-20-2013 03:33 PM #3
      8200rpm? Bah! That's not even redline on many Hondas

      But seriously, that sucks. And there's no way to tell who's right without an in-car video.

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      01-20-2013 03:33 PM #4
      Quote Originally Posted by dubjager View Post
      Always wondered about what would happen if a classic car like that was broken by a journalist.
      Ditto. I was under the impression magazines had some sort of coverage for their writers.
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      01-20-2013 03:42 PM #5
      Quote Originally Posted by epbrown View Post
      Ditto. I was under the impression magazines had some sort of coverage for their writers.
      This guy is freelance. I'd think he'd have his own insurance?

    6. Member Jordan 191's Avatar
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      01-20-2013 03:45 PM #6
      I hate driving cars I don't own.

    7. Member GruuvenNorth's Avatar
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      01-20-2013 03:58 PM #7
      Quote Originally Posted by Jordan 191 View Post
      I hate driving cars I don't own.
      Same here.

      Rentals on the other hand....
      Easy like Sunday Morning.

    8. Member geofftii2002's Avatar
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      01-20-2013 04:02 PM #8
      Wow, Mark Hales knows what he's doing behind the wheel. Its not like its the first time he's piloted a multi-million dollar bit of machinery. I've seen it happen on rented race cars, we had a customer ball up a Chevron B21 and he had to fork over the repair costs. But that I'm sure was the pre-arranged agreement. Using the car for a story has an altogether different set of rules, I'm sure.

      I'll be curious to see how this plays out... plus, it's not like David Piper doesn't have the dough to pay for it!
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      01-20-2013 04:10 PM #9
      I could see seeking damages if the test driver intentionally abuses the car.
      But it's a vintage race car- these engines failed back when new in normal track use.
      I don't really see the case unless the owner can show that the test drive was intentionally abusive.
      Oh, and was any of this "you break it, you fix it" stuff written down?
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    10. 01-20-2013 04:34 PM #10
      Quote Originally Posted by Jordan 191 View Post
      I hate driving cars I don't own.
      I hate lending out vehicles that I own!

    11. Member Jordan 191's Avatar
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      01-20-2013 04:40 PM #11
      Quote Originally Posted by GoFaster View Post
      I hate lending out vehicles that I own!
      We should be friends.

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      01-20-2013 04:43 PM #12
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      01-20-2013 04:44 PM #13
      Quote Originally Posted by Jordan 191 View Post
      I hate driving cars I don't own.
      I could make an exception to drive a 917 on a track...
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    14. Member Jordan 191's Avatar
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      01-20-2013 04:46 PM #14
      Quote Originally Posted by Internal Combustion View Post
      I could make an exception to drive a 917 on a track...
      Have fun with a rich prick suing your a$$.

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      01-20-2013 04:49 PM #15
      The bulk of autojournos are virtually talentless behind the wheel these days, but that obviously wasn't the case here.

      Honestly, the owner knew the risks. If he couldn't afford to have it broken, he shouldn't have handed over the keys in the first place.
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      01-20-2013 04:54 PM #16
      Quote Originally Posted by Jordan 191 View Post
      I hate driving cars I don't own.
      Quote Originally Posted by GoFaster View Post
      I hate lending out vehicles that I own!
      Quote Originally Posted by Cousin Eddie View Post
      TCLers bitching about braking performance being subpar on a track is laughable. Most of you wouldn't have a pair of stones big enough or the skills to fade the brakes on a Prius.

      In before the autocross brigade of armchair quarterbacks chime in.

    17. Member s-rocc's Avatar
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      01-20-2013 04:57 PM #17
      hmm, if you accept £2000 to allow someone to drive your highly valuable (and historic) car, you clearly had an agreement of some kind. there really should have been a written contract declaring this type of info before the car left the paddock.

      i think the owner of the car is responsible for the costs because he failed to declare any of this before the car was damaged.

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      01-20-2013 05:08 PM #18
      Car is used and old. Nothing AAMCO cannot fix.

    19. Member Jordan 191's Avatar
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      01-20-2013 05:15 PM #19
      Any American could have told Mr. Hales that green racecars are bad luck.

    20. Geriatric Member Obin Robinson's Avatar
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      01-20-2013 05:15 PM #20
      £50,000 to fix an over-rev in a flat-12? Yeah that sounds about right. I hope the journalist has some deep pockets.

      obin
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      01-20-2013 05:46 PM #21
      I understand asking him to fix the engine or pay 50k to get it done, BUT asking 2mil

      You rented(took 2k from the guy) a car to be driven on the track and now want 2mil cuz its broken.
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      01-20-2013 06:04 PM #22
      Quote Originally Posted by BRealistic View Post
      I could see seeking damages if the test driver intentionally abuses the car.
      But it's a vintage race car- these engines failed back when new in normal track use.
      I don't really see the case unless the owner can show that the test drive was intentionally abusive.
      Oh, and was any of this "you break it, you fix it" stuff written down?
      My sentiments above.

      Old car is old. Experienced driver in the seat. He wasnt abusing it. **** happenes.
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      01-20-2013 06:10 PM #23
      Quote Originally Posted by TM87 View Post
      I understand asking him to fix the engine or pay 50k to get it done, BUT asking 2mil

      You rented(took 2k from the guy) a car to be driven on the track and now want 2mil cuz its broken.
      He isn't asking for 2 million. The wording is a bit unclear, but I think they're referring to the value of the entire car. From the article you should have read before posting...

      The 82-year-old, of London Road, Windlesham, Surrey, is seeking around £50,000 for the cost of fixing the engine, which had to be shipped to Germany for specialist repair and the "loss of use" he endured while the car was out of action.

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      01-20-2013 06:11 PM #24
      Quote Originally Posted by TM87 View Post
      I understand asking him to fix the engine or pay 50k to get it done, BUT asking 2mil

      You rented(took 2k from the guy) a car to be driven on the track and now want 2mil cuz its broken.
      You don't read much do you...

      The 82-year-old, of London Road, Windlesham, Surrey, is seeking around £50,000 for the cost of fixing the engine, which had to be shipped to Germany for specialist repair and the "loss of use" he endured while the car was out of action.

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      01-20-2013 06:21 PM #25
      Wow. I had the good fortune to take a 917 around laguna seca.
      I knew it was rare, and costly.... and I'm glad I didn't know the figures for a motor rebuild at the time.

      After reading this article, I appreciate the attitude of the owner (of the car I drove) that much more.

      "Have some fun, but, ya know, I'd like to drive it after you're done"
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      01-20-2013 06:23 PM #26
      Quote Originally Posted by Aonarch View Post
      My sentiments above.

      Old car is old. Experienced driver in the seat. He wasnt abusing it. **** happenes.
      I wonder is this is more about... being butt hurt.
      I mean... if you have and run a million dollar vintage race car, you should expect and easily be able to afford mechanical failures.
      But what if the test driver was rude and said something like "I broke it. Oh well. Got any more that I can break?"
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      01-20-2013 06:27 PM #27
      Quote Originally Posted by eurotekms View Post
      a 917 around laguna seca
      I would fill my pants driving a Miata through the Corkscrew.

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      01-20-2013 07:05 PM #28
      I doubt the owner of the porsche will win the case. There is no way to prove that the journalist over-revved the engine.
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    29. 01-20-2013 07:24 PM #29
      Quote Originally Posted by .:Chr!sVR6 View Post
      I doubt the owner of the porsche will win the case. There is no way to prove that the journalist over-revved the engine.
      unless porsche has blackbox.

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      01-20-2013 07:27 PM #30
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      01-20-2013 07:29 PM #31
      Quote Originally Posted by .:Chr!sVR6 View Post
      I doubt the owner of the porsche will win the case. There is no way to prove that the journalist over-revved the engine.
      And will any journalists ever ask to test drive one of his cars again?
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    32. 01-20-2013 07:34 PM #32
      what, no insurance?

      oh right, if nobody wants to insure you - don't drive the damn car!

      Clarkson didn't drive the 250GTO on Top Gear because nobody would insure him to do it.

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      01-20-2013 07:42 PM #33
      Quote Originally Posted by Obin Robinson View Post
      £50,000 to fix an over-rev in a flat-12? Yeah that sounds about right. I hope the journalist has some deep pockets.

      obin
      Nah, tell him to bring it over and we'll have a look inside. Shoot, I bet I can get in the Hastings catalogs and find some rings that fit (if not, we could machine the pistons for wider grooves and knurl them), machine the heads for Chevy triple springs, special order some Carillo rods, have the crank welded/ground... Ah hell, I can't stand even pretending to butcher that lovely engine any further.

      Was it a 917 that was retired for what was supposedly an "oil leak" but they decided to forgo mentioning that the oil was leaking out of the hole in the side of the crankcase the rod had gone through?
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      01-20-2013 07:50 PM #34
      Quote Originally Posted by BRealistic View Post
      I could see seeking damages if the test driver intentionally abuses the car.
      But it's a vintage race car- these engines failed back when new in normal track use.
      I don't really see the case unless the owner can show that the test drive was intentionally abusive.
      I feel the same way. No matter how good the mechanic is that looks after an old race car it can blow up at any time for any reason or no good reason at all. They are all ticking time bombs waiting to explode even when looked after diligently and subject to an aggressive preventative maintenance scheme.

      I'm interested to see what proof the respected Mr. Piper has that the engine was over-reved (in-car video footage perhaps?) and what proof he has that the over-rev was due to the negligence of Mr. Hales and not a mechanical failure. While I feel for Mr. Piper, I also feel that a court ruling against Mr. Hales could have a significant chilling effect on auto journalism as few writers (save for Nick Mason, Jay Leno and Harry Metcalfe) could afford to take a risk with anything more valuable than a Mazda Miata. This would be a good case for SCM's Legal Files column. Oh, wait, nevermind... John Draneas already wrote about this subject, warning owners to have a solid contract in writing as gentleman's agreements are prone to complication, especially when there may be disagreement about how exactly to repair the car.

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      01-20-2013 08:00 PM #35
      Quote Originally Posted by freedomgli View Post
      While I feel for Mr. Piper, I also feel that a court ruling against Mr. Hales could have a significant chilling effect on auto journalism as few writers (save for Nick Mason, Jay Leno and Harry Metcalfe) could afford to take a risk with anything more valuable than a Mazda Miata. .
      There is a difference between an auto manufacturer putting out fleet vehicles for test drives so they can get press coverage and somebody lending out their vintage race car.
      The auto companies know press fleet vehicle will get abused- and they all have contractual agreements anyway.

      To flip the story on the same principle as the lawsuit- what if a tire blew at speed resulting in a bad crash and the driver being killed? Would the car owner be liable?
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