Prowess Racing Ltd v Jason Plato
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Sir Peter Pain
Date of judgment: 22 Mar 1990
Summary: Motor racing - contract - racing driver intending to change teams - injunction - restraint of trade - rule against penalties
A contract between a racing team (T), a sponsor (E) and a driver, JP, for Formula Renault motor racing provided for E to pay T £70,000 by instalments. E missed 2 instalments, triggering cl.3 which required immediate payment of the full sum, and interest. T sought an injunction to restrain JP from racing for a rival team, basing its claim on cl.5 of the contract, which prohibited him from engaging in any motor sport without T’s consent unless E made the contractual payments. JP resisted the application, contending that T had no real prospect of success or was likely to lose on the grounds that (a) the contract had been rescinded for breach (b) cl.5 was an unreasonable restraint of trade and/or to uphold it would indirectly amount to (c) enforcement of cl.3, which was an unlawful penalty and/or (d) specific performance of a contract for personal services. T contended that JP was an amateur so the restraint of trade doctrine was inapplicable and there were no relevant personal services.
Whether the court should restrain JP from racing for the rival team.
The injunction would be refused. The issue of whether there had been a valid termination was triable, and some of JP’s defences were difficult to determine without more evidence. However, on the evidence it was inescapable that driving was JP’s occupation and the arrangement was commercial. The restraint under clause 5 was so wide as to be clearly excessive, as T may implicitly have acknowledged in seeking relief in respect of one rival team only. Clause 5 was also unenforceable because of its link with cl.3, which imposed an unlawful penalty on E. The injunction would also have been refused on the balance of convenience.
Jason Plato went on to make a successful career in motor racing and as a TV personality (Channel 4’s Driven, the Racing Rivals docu-soap and now ITV1’s Speed Sunday).