Mark Hales Appeal

Mark Hales

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During 2009 Mark Hales was driving a replica Porsche 917 belonging to David Piper for a feature with a Ferrari 512S owned by Nick Mason. This was for publication in Octane and Auto Italia magazines. Octane magazine provided the insurance for the event.

On the day a lower than usual rev limit was imposed and during the test the engine failed due to an over-rev of that lower limit. While Hales maintained there was a wrongly adjusted gearshift mechanism which he raised prior to failure which caused the car to jump out of gear, Piper maintained all was well.

Similarly Hales maintained there was a verbal conversation surrounding liability in the event of mechanical failure not covered by insurance, Piper maintained this conversation didn’t take place. Having then failed to obtain remedy from Octane magazine and their insurers Piper then sued Hales personally in the high court.

Subsequent to the feature going to print Piper sold the car for £1.3m with a freshly rebuilt engine.
Insurance does not currently exist for mechanical failure and any claim is highly unusual in the world of classic car racing. There are obvious implications for those driving other people’s cars, and the motoring press in general. In Piper’s own words: “I think people will think twice about lending cars to journalists [now]”

As respected journalist Doug Nye puts it: “We all knew there was a plate-glass window out there, we just didn’t expect someone to throw a brick through it.”

The judgement went against Hales and he has now to settle the entire judgement of over £120,000.
The claimant’s lawyers have stated their intention to issue an interim demand for £35,000 which has to be paid in 14 days’ time.

Mark does not have the means to settle the judgement and his position is stark. He now faces bankruptcy. The industry has pulled together to avert this and discussions are underway for events that you can support. In the meantime this Paypal account has been set up to assist Mark in relation to the adverse judgement.

Funds credited to the account are gifts, with any surplus being paid to forces charity Mission Motorsport.
While negotiations are underway, Hales is currently dealing with a judgement in excess of £120,000. The claimant’s lawyers have stated their intention by issuing an interim demand for £35,000 which has to be paid within 14 days of the judgment.

More fundraising news and events will be communicated by Twitter at @trackdrivermag, on Facebook at Mark Hales TrackDriver-Editor and via TrackDriver magazine itself.

The case has also been intelligently covered in the following articles by respected journalists;

Andrew Frankel:
http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/miscellaneous/mark-hales-found-liable-in-piper-case/

Chris Harris:
http://www.pistonheads.com/news/default.asp?storyId=26990

Andrew English:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/motorsport/9823844/Can-historic-racing-survive.html

Jamie Merrill:

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/motoring/motoring-news/it-shouldnt-happen-to-a-motoring-journalist-but-it-did-8466125.html

The Ten-Tenths forum discusses it here;
http://www.ten-tenths.com/forum/showthread.php?t=136226

A personal message from Mark follows;

I’ve thought long and hard about this as you can imagine. I feel the decision against me was unjust and I can’t help but come to the conclusion the judge had made his mind up before the case began.

The lawyers have advised that an appeal is legally possible, but this has been an emotionally upsetting time and after four years the prospect of another two spent in similar fashion are not welcome and I would like to bring an end as far as I am able. Unless some significant new evidence comes to light, I do not intend to pursue this further.

I am a racing driver and journalist not a lawyer, and I would like to get back to what I do best.

Thank you all for your support both on line and directly, it’s very welcome and comes at a difficult time.

Mark