A businessman has been cleared of driving a McLaren supercar dangerously after telling a jury he thought it was safe to overtake a line of traffic on a country road.
Steven Trace was found not guilty of dangerous driving but guilty of the lesser offence of careless driving by a jury at Exeter Crown Court.
He was acquitted after giving evidence that he did not see any cars indicating right when he pulled out to overtake the cars on a long straight on the main Okehampton to Holsworthy A3079 road.
He produced photographs of the scene which showed there were no signs or road markings to indicate a junction at the point where he crashed into a car which was turning right into a forest road.
Dog walker Joanna Luxton was taking her two dogs for a walk in Cookworthy Forest when her car was hit by Trace’s McLaren 570S sports car. Other drivers confirmed that she had indicated shortly before she started to make the turn which took her into the path of the McLaren.
She suffered a friction burn from her seat belt and one of her dogs suffered a minor back injury. Her BMW X1 car was written off. Trace’s £145,000, 200mph car was flipped in the air, rolled 60 metres down the road, was thrown through a hedge and badly damaged.
The judge told him he was lucky to be alive.
Builder Trace, aged 39, of Stamford Hill, Stratton, near Bude, denied dangerous driving and was found guilty of the alternative and much less serious offence of careless driving.
He was fined £1,100 with nine penalty points by Judge Anna Richardson, who said: “He is quite lucky to be alive. I got the feeling that he does not understand the risk he took or the riskiness of the manoeuvre. He may feel justified in what he did.”
She said that overtaking a long line of traffic is inherently unsafe because the faster a driver goes, the more difficult it becomes to return to the correct lane or to avoid any unexpected hazards.
During a short trial Mr Herc Ashworth, prosecuting, said the accident happened at Cookworthy Moor, near Halwill Junction, at about 10 am on June 5, 2021 when Mrs Joanna Luxton was taking her two dogs for a walk in her BMW X1.
She was third or fourth in a line of cars on a long straight stretch of road and was hit by Trace’s McLaren as she turned right onto a forest road.
Mr Ashworth said other drivers in the queue estimated there were between eight and 12 cars in it and that Trace’s speed was between 70 and 90 mph on the 60 mph road.
One of the other drivers said the McLaren sounded like a jet engine as it went past him and another turned to his wife and said ‘look at that knob’ when he saw the overtaking car.
Trace told the jury that he had checked that no cars were indicating to pull out and considered the overtake was safe because each of the cars in the queue had left a space between them and the next vehicle.
He said he did not see Mrs Luxton’s BMW indicate until it turned into his path and said it hit his car rather than the other way around.
He said the he was taking the car to Exeter to have it valued with a view for sale and came across the line of traffic near Red Post, waiting until a straight to try to overtake.
He said he checked his speedo before pulling out and it read 39. He did not believe he exceeded the speed limit of 60mph. He said his car was glanced by the BMW and said ‘I may have braked, and the next thing I knew, I was going through the hedge’.
Mr Brian Fitzherbert, defending, said the insurance company had refused to pay out until the result of this case was known and would have made no payment if Trace was found guilty of dangerous driving.
He said Trace works as a builder and used the profits from a completed project to buy the car which he saw as an investment and intended to sell to provide the seed capital for his next venture.
He currently has no project on the go and so the family’s joint income is £700 a week from his wife’s estate agency.
The jury were not told about the true capabilities of the McLaren 570S which Trace was driving. It goes from 0 – 60 mph in 3.1 seconds and 0 – 124 mph in 9.3 seconds. It can accelerate from 40 to 90 in a few seconds. The top speed is 204 mph and it has a horsepower of 563 bhp.