Video: Racing writer facing bankruptcy after ex-F1 driver's Porsche blows up
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.
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."