January 22, 2013
Who pays for damage to a race car?
Over the week end an article popped up on Twitter telling the story of the dispute between 1960's race driver David Piper and motoring journalist/author/classic car racer Mark Hales.
Piper has sued and won judgement against Hales for the cost of an engine rebuild on a replica Porsche 917 he had lent the journalist for a magazine article in 2009. Boiled down to Hales maintaining there was a problem with the gearbox, Piper saying Hales "money shifted" the air cooled 12 blowing it up.
If you follow classic car racing you will have seen Hales drive some of the world's rarest and most precious cars. If you have ever seen a Goodwood Revival, it's pretty clear many owners of these rolling treasures appreciate the very real risk that they will get bent. Certainly they understand, as anyone who has run cars on track, that every part of a car is a consumable destined for replacement or rebuild. But mistakes can an do happen.
In a modern race car this would not have been an issue, a perfect example at last year's 24 Hour of Daytona our friend Spencer Cox had the engine let go in practice on a TRG Porsche GT3. Porsche engineers plugged in a computer and in less than an hour determined it was their fault and rolled in a crate with a new lump. Montreal GP this past year, CG was racing Ferrari Challenge, tearing through the field when he lost 3rd gear. Later that day data was sent to Maranello and Ferrari covered the gearbox under warranty (much to CG's relief, I'm sure).
The issue with older cars is murkier. I was surprised to read a complete engine rebuild for a Porsche 917 is "only" $58000 and considering Mr. Piper owns the cars in the clip below amongst other things, it seems bad sport to go after Hales like that. One wonders if there was more to it and in fact, if you read the judgment motivations, it does not look so good for Hales who was less than clear in giving evidence and seems to have made some ill advised statements.
This morning reading Pistonheads I saw Chris Harris has written about the case, exploring it from the working journalist angle. Not surprisingly he's very much in Mr. Hales' camp.
This particular case did not involve racing, just a photo shoot apparently but I'm curious about how you approach the subject of lending yours or driving someone else's car in a track situation.
What about endurance racing, if you are part of a team and one of the drivers has a problem, how have you dealt with a mechanical issue? How about if the car gets hit though no fault of the driver, or if a driver goes off in the rain for example? Discuss!