Racecars blow engines all the time, but a Porsche 917 isn't just a run-of-the-mill racecar. British automotive writer Mark Hales reportedly borrowed a 917 from 82-year-old former Formula One racer David Piper for a magazine article, and mechanical tragedy ensued. Nobody is arguing that the engine failed after being spun to 8,200 rpm. However, Hales was warned not to exceed 7,000 rpm, says owner Piper, and the affair landed in English courts with Piper seeking £50,000 – over $79,000 US – in reimbursement funds for an engine rebuild and loss of use of the car while it was being repaired. Judge Simon Brown ruled in favor of car owner Piper, putting Hales on the hook for £110,000 ($174,000) including legal fees – a whole lot of money in any language.

Hales says the Porsche suffered a mechanical fault while lapping that allowed it to slip out of gear and over-rev. Piper wasn't convinced, and sought to have the repair paid for by the guy who broke the racer, saying "If you bend it, you mend it." It's not like Hales is a novice driver, having seat time in both professional and amateur races over 30 years, notching about 150 wins, but even the best drivers sometimes miss a shift, and that's what Piper contended happened to his car.

According to reports, Hales has had to sell most of his valuables to pay his lawyers and is now facing bankruptcy with the ruling against him. Members of the Pistonheads website are trying to coordinate a collection to help him out, as well.


UPDATE: Images of David Piper's actual 1970 Porsche 917 added thanks to Autoblog reader Bill Ibsen of Porsche Club of America. Thanks, Bill!


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 95 Comments
      DAiNiUS
      • 1 Year Ago
      "Judge Simon Brown ruled in favor of car owner Piper" "Piper has had to sell most of his valuables to pay his lawyers and is now facing bankruptcy with the ruling against him" OK, so who exactly did the judge rule against?!
        m_2012
        • 1 Year Ago
        @DAiNiUS
        It's called once again AB did not check what they wrote. The ruling was against Mark Hales, the automotive writer.
          Arch
          • 1 Year Ago
          @m_2012
          @J W yes we all make mistakes but blogs that millions read need to be checked carefully so all the facts are straight.
          J W
          • 1 Year Ago
          @m_2012
          Like you've never made a grammatical error ever... Everyone makes mistakes, even professionals. Ask your favorite mechanic if they have ever made a mistake repairing a car.
          m_2012
          • 1 Year Ago
          @m_2012
          @ J W - I don't make them all day, every day like articles posted on here. people make mistakes, yes, but every article on here has at least one mistake, day in and day out. My mechanic would only make a mistake once, not every damn car.
        audiohack
        • 1 Year Ago
        @DAiNiUS
        Yeah, I made a mistake on the last paragraph. Thanks everyone for catching it. -D
      audisp0rta4
      • 1 Year Ago
      Time to pay the Piper...
      Car Guy
      • 1 Year Ago
      If you are a professional journalist, driving $1M + cars, you would be a fool not to have an insurance policy to cover these high-end vehicles.
      SloopJohnB
      • 1 Year Ago
      Two words. Liability Insurance. Insane not to have it when you're in a business.
      Tom
      • 1 Year Ago
      I find it hard to accept -- but easy to believe -- that with such a valuable and historic piece of machinery at stake, the parties didn't set forth in writing exactly who would pay in the event of damage, and upon what basis. Also, as mentioned by numerous others: Insurance. Duh. In the absence of such responsible business planning, I find fault with the driver, who willingly exposed himself to liability that (apparently) exceeds his net worth.
      adrenalnjunky
      • 1 Year Ago
      When I loan something of value to someone, and they tell me "Don't worry, I'll take care of it like it was mine!" I tell them, "No, you need to take care of it like it is mine."
      rollie
      • 1 Year Ago
      \"Stupid is what stupid does\" - Forest Gump, ....from the movie Forest Gump. First, who has the stupidity to take responsibility for such an expensive car without insurance? Second, who is stupid enough to let them?
        rollie
        • 1 Year Ago
        @rollie
        Are there two r's in forest...forrest?...oh well, at least I am smart enough not to get into a mess like these guys 'eh?
      Dave
      • 1 Year Ago
      Personal responsibility.. If you can't afford to fix it, then stay out of it. Anybody says anything else, let me borrow your car and see what you say when I break it. It is a gentlemans agreement in racing if you ask to use another mans car you are responsible. Once you go to court, the gloves are off and it gets very expensive.
        joynerz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Dave
        Just like a someone asked a friend of mine if she could borrow her diamond dinner ring to wear to a formal. The friend told her if she couldn't afford to pay for it she shouldn't ask to borrow it.
      Al Terego
      • 1 Year Ago
      Moral of the story: don't borrow cars and don't lend them out. Save yourself the hassle of potential pain-in-the-butt.
        crshcrstr
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Al Terego
        Well, this was a journalist. The reason we're able to have shows like top gear is that people loan them the cars. Sometimes the companies will send them, but for instance, the episode where they test the f40 and the 959, I guarantee that those were privately owned by someone who loaned them out...
      IOMTT
      • 1 Year Ago
      917's were notorious for having an odd gear change in the earlier examples. Care and skill were needed to avoid the over-rev damage. A driver, no matter how good in a modern car, better take some time to get familiar with vintage machinery. These old cars did not forgive mistakes and there we no driver aids. I am shocked the bill is only 79K given the rarity of materials/parts and qualified technicians to do the job on the flat 12.
      Kenny
      • 1 Year Ago
      typical journalist.........pushing the envelope.......
      Mr E
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wow, that sucks. It seems like there could be some type of insurance for a situation like this. I feel bad for the journalist guy if the car really did blow itself up. Either way, I guess, it sounds like he wasn't exactly moseying along.
    • Load More Comments