Wednesday, January 23, 2013

News Discussion: British Journalist Mark Hales Ordered to Pay $174,000 After Engine of Porsche 917 Race Car Blows Up

I spotted this article earlier today and thought it would be something interesting to share and discuss.

The story goes like this: British automotive journalist Mark Hales was given the opportunity to drive a replica of a rare, Porsche 917 race car on a British circuit back in April of 2009 for a piece comparing a classic Ferrari or the same era. The owner of the Porsche, retired race car driver and collector David Piper, agreed to lend the car to Mark Hales to drive and do a photo shoot. Hales, who apparently is not a racing amateur, took the car out, only to have the engine blow up on him during the track session when the he attempted to shift the gar from second to third gear. Rather than ensuring Hales that everything would be taken care of and that "shit happens," Piper chose to sue Hales in the amount of £111,000 ($174,000), £48,000 ($74,000) of which is for the damage to car, and the other £63,000 ($100,000) for legal fees.

Both parties agree that the engine failure was caused by over revving the engine, but Hales argued that the engine over revved because the car had popped out of gear. Hales points out to the British High Court that he had been having problems with the 917 all day. When he attempted to shift from second to third gear, the transmission popped out of place, causing the engine to over rev. Prior to the track session, Hales said he had a conversation with Piper, agreeing that he would be responsible if he crashed the car, but that Piper would be responsible for any mechanical damage. "It was a gentleman's agreement and I didn't write it down," claims Hales.

Piper, on the other hand, argues that he had instructed Hales to keep the car under 7,000 rpm, and that he had no conversation with Hales regarding his responsibility for mechanical damages prior to the track session. In the end, the court sided with Piper, claiming that it was Hales' driving, not the car, that caused the engine failure.

Unfortunately for Mark Hales, the cost of legal fees has forced him to sell his possessions in order to pay his lawyers. Hales also mentions that if the court upholds its ruling, he will have to file for bankruptcy. Luckily for Hales though, kind hearted British auto enthusiasts have set up a fund to help Hales pay off the £111,000.

So my question, dear readers, is this: do you think the court's ruling is just? Was Mark Hales' driving at fault for causing the engine failure, or was the age of the car the problem?

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