It shouldn't happen to a motoring journalist (but it did)
You have to feel for him. Mark Hales had a fantastic job. He was a racing driver and journalist who travelled the world writing about his high-octane exploits for glossy car magazines. He was among the most trusted names in the classic-car world, then in 2009 he borrowed a classic Porsche 917 from ex-Formula One racing driver David Piper for a story, and it all went wrong.
After several runs around the Cadwell Park track the engine of the £1.25m sports car exploded leaving Hale red faced and Piper with a busted 1969 Le Mans Porsche and a £50,000 repair bill. The engine, further investigation showed, went bang due to an over-rev caused by a missed gear. Hales said it was a fault with the gearshift while Piper maintained it was driver error. The oily mess ended up in the courts and this week a judge sided with Piper and ordered Hales to pay £113,000 in compensation and costs, a hefty sum that looks likely to bankrupt him.
With classic cars, most loans from private owners (unlike the manufactures who lend out new cars) are done by gentlemen's agreement in a fashion that dates back to the monochrome age when these wonderful machines were first raced. But Piper told the High Court that with his cars, "if you bend it, you mend it". Hales, it seems, thought differently.
As The Independent's car reviewer I've driven my share of the latest super-fast sports cars and I can testify that I go cold at the thought of pranging one. Yes, it's a privilege (and if I'm honest, a real hoot) to test the latest Porsche or Aston Martin but it's a relief to swap it for a Ford or Skoda at the end of the week.
The most damage I've done is a mangled alloy on a Audi RS4 (sorry Audi!). I test new cars that are fully insured so aside from my professional pride it cost me nothing. Hales though could well lose his house. I know hacks rarely deserve sympathy but I really feel for the poor guy.
Life & Style blogs
The Last of Us Remastered: Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
Ebola outbreak: Why has a disease that's only ever killed 2,000 people captivated the darkest side of our imagination?
Ebola virus: UK health officials issue warning to doctors as experts admit the outbreak 'is not under control'
National Orgasm Day: Don't get caught up on climaxing
Ebola: UK is ready to deal with outbreak, says Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
- 1 Russell Brand accuses FOX News anchor Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people
- 3 Arturo Vidal to Manchester United: Midfielder set to force through move to Louis van Gaal's Red Devils - reports
- 4 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
- < Previous
- Next >
£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...