CHICAGO (CN) – A former Indianapolis 500 racecar driver donated, not loaned, his 1979 Kremer Racing Porsche 935 K3 to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation, the 7th Circuit ruled. In upholding a district court’s decision, the circuit found that Reginald Whittington Jr. “failed to prove that he had possessory interest” in the Porsche that he brought to the foundation 30 years ago and tried to get back for a vintage car event.
Whittington, together with his brother Bill Whittington and Klaus Ludwig, won the 1979 Le Mans 24-hour endurance race in the Porsche. In May 1980, Whittington brought the car to the foundation, where it has remained as part of the Hall of Fame Museum.
In 2004, Whittington asked to have the car returned for an event involving vintage Porsches. According to the foundation, Whittington had not contacted it since 1980.
Whittington claimed to have made an oral agreement with Charles Thompson, superintendent of the museum in 1980, that the car would be on “indefinite loan” to the museum.
Having no documentation to back up this claim, Whittington’s case relied on witness testimony. However, there were conflicts in much of the testimony in the case and a number of potential witnesses had already died.
“[Whittington’s] primary support for this argument was his own testimony,” Judge Michael Kanne wrote.
Jack Martin, the museum’s former director, testified that even if Whittington’s story were true, Thompson would “not have had any authority whatsoever” to arrange a loan.
A lower court in Indiana ruled that Whittington had the burden of proof under Indiana law. Lacking compelling evidence that the car was in fact loaned, the court ruled that it would remain in the possession of the foundation.
“The lesson for Whittington should be that an unwritten contract is not worth the paper it isn’t printed on,” Kanne wrote.