It’s been my privilege to share dinner tables, race tracks and paddocks with the key players in the Hales vs Piper court case that has finally reached a conclusion this week. That is not said as a boast – merely to paint a picture of the small world that is historic motorsport and to preface the fact that it’s a sorry day when what started off as a gentleman’s agreement ends up in the High Court. Certainly, no one has won here, as can be seen from some of the vitriol being poured the way of David Piper in the twittersphere.
Agreements concerning racing or testing someone else’s car in historic racing tend to fall into one of two categories. The first is – ‘bend it, you mend it’, which is what it says on the tin. If damage is caused, you’ll see it right. And it is under that heading that it would seem this arrangement fell under, initially.
The second is where the owner takes all responsibility for any damage caused to their car while it is being utilised by another, often professional driver, or journalist, which is how most publications operate but was not the case here. Fellow competitors in the St Mary’s Trophy at the Goodwood Revival can all tell tales of professional drivers who have used the owner’s car and brought it back in exactly the same condition as when it started the race. Or not, as the case may be! However, that is the nature of the arrangement – you win some, you lose some…
Whatever was said by whom and when in this instance, reputations have been compromised hugely, including that of the world of historic motorsport, which is a great pity for such a wonderful arm of the sport that gives so much pleasure to so many, on both sides of the fence. Next time there is an inevitable bump, blown engine, or damaged gearbox, let’s hope that sanity prevails and the issue can be sorted out in private, as per whatever the arrangement was in the first place.
However, this rather unfortunate episode has been placed into sharp perspective by the tragic news that greeted the motorcycle journalism world this week, with the death of The Daily Telegraph’s motorcycle correspondent, Kevin Ash, who was killed in South Africa while on a bike launch. I never knew Kevin but my colleagues who work on our Triumph account talk of a genuine, friendly, passionate motorbike guy, who just happened to be a very fine racer, rider and writer. His passing will be felt keenly in this office, as someone who was both respected and liked. This is a huge loss for the motorcycle industry in the UK and we all pass on our most sincere condolences to his family.
The only common denominator across all of this is that accidents do happen, be they insignificant in the greater scheme of things, or utterly tragic. Perhaps it’s the manner in which we do things, rather than what we actually do, that counts the most.