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Journalist facing bankruptcy after blowing up ex-F1 driver's Porsche at Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire

By This is Lincolnshire  |  Posted: January 25, 2013

IN A SPIN: Mark Hales with the Porsche 917 before its engine blew up.

IN A SPIN: Mark Hales with the Porsche 917 before its engine blew up.

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A MOTORING journalist claims he is facing bankruptcy after an ex-F1 racing driver sued him for blowing up a prize Porsche car.

Mark Hales, 62, of Fen Lane, Conisholme, was at the wheel of an iconic classic racing car when its engine blew up at Cadwell Park racing circuit.

Mr Hales has now been ordered to pay nearly £50,000 to its owner, David Piper, after a top judge ruled the damage was the result of "driver error".

On top of the damages, Mr Hales, a freelance writer, said he is facing legal costs of £63,000.

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He told how he was humiliated after taking a Porsche 917 belonging to ex-Formula One driver Mr Piper for a spin in preparation for a magazine article in April 2009.

The engine of the green-and-white vintage motor – made from genuine Porsche parts and valued at £1.25 million – failed catastrophically as Mr Hales drove it around the course.

As we featured in the Grimsby Telegraph at the time, he was comparing Piper's Porsche with a £1.5 million Ferrari owned by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, of which Mr Hales is the main driver.

Mr Piper, 82, sued Mr Hales, claiming the journalist had over-revved the engine – but Mr Hales said the gear jumped out, leading to the engine failure.

He said he understood there was a "verbal agreement over the phone" about who was responsible in the event of mechanical problems.

But Mr Piper was awarded £47,961.86 following an embittered and hard-fought hearing at London's High Court.

Judge Simon Brown QC said the evidence "overwhelmingly" pointed to the engine damage being caused by over-revving following Mr Hales' failure to properly engage gears.

He described the journalist as "a most unreliable witness whose evidence was creative, inconsistent, self-motivated and incredible".

But Mr Hales told the Grimsby Telegraph he felt the judgment and "gratuitous destruction" of his character was "unfair".

He claimed he had only done about 15 laps with the Porsche, which has since been sold.

He added: "The 917 was notoriously difficult. All the best drivers had problems and there were lots of engine failures; Vic Elford lost victory at Le Mans in his 917 because of the same problem.

"It looks like bankruptcy for me."

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5 comments

  • Derp_Lincoln  |  February 01 2013, 12:33PM

    "He should be sensible like me and only drive reliable cars like my Skoda Felicia." Reliable, dull and soul-destroying in its sheer joylessness; I bet the radio's permanently tuned to radio 4, isn't it? And I suppose he should also wear sensible shoes and a tweed jacket too, amirite?

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  • rascall1  |  January 26 2013, 3:12PM

    Why did he let you drive the car without checking you had liability cover of insurance or similar to cover unexpected events like this. Looks like he should shoulder some of the burden. But you should have had some insurance cover being a freelance... Self employed worker i think its required by law.

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  • Phil1W  |  January 25 2013, 10:34PM

    He should be sensible like me and only drive reliable cars like my Skoda Felicia. Cost £400 at Newark auction 4yrs ago and has had a new exhaust once, cost around £69 from memory and has never cost more than about £30 to get through the MOT.

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  • InsideStory  |  January 25 2013, 6:40PM

    I suppose it could be one way out of paying up ?

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  • Localperson55  |  January 25 2013, 5:53PM

    Maybe a story underlining the need to be appropriately insured!

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