June 28, 2005

Michelin to refund U.S. Grand Prix fans

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Michelin have offered to refund U.S.Grand Prix fans after tire failures turned this month's FormulaOne race at Indianapolis into a six-car fiasco.

"Michelin has decided to contribute to the costs incurredby the spectators present at the circuit on Sunday, June 19th2005 by offering to refund their tickets," the French tiremanufacturer said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This is an important decision, since Michelin is not atall legally bound to do this."

Some 120,000 fans attended the race.

Michelin, who gave no financial details, also offered tobuy 20,000 tickets for the 2006 U.S. Grand Prix to be given tospectators who were at this year's event in order to "promotefurther Formula One interest in the United States."

Seven of the 10 teams use Michelin tires and none raced atIndianapolis after the company said they could not guaranteesafety through the final high-speed banked corner.

Some fans threw plastic water bottles and beer cans on thetrack in a debacle that badly damaged Formula One's standing inAmerica.

"Michelin deeply regrets that the public was deprived of anexciting race and therefore wishes to be the first, among thedifferent groups involved in the Indianapolis race, to make astrong gesture toward the spectators," the company said.


The seven teams are due to appear before the InternationalAutomobile Federation (FIA)'s world motor sport council inParis on Wednesday to answer charges of bringing the sport intodisrepute.

The Michelin gesture is likely to reduce the risk of theteams -- championship leaders Renault, McLaren, Williams,Toyota, Sauber, Red Bull and BAR -- from being heavilysanctioned.

It should also lift a cloud hanging over Sunday's FrenchGrand Prix, which could be affected were the teams to takeaction against any penalties.

However the tire company, who have been adamant throughoutthat safety was their main concern at Indianapolis, remainedcritical of the governing body's response to the tire crisis.

"We are extremely disappointed that the proposals made withall our teams were not accepted," Michelin said. "Theseproposals, including a chicane, were technically viable andtotally met all safety requirements.

"On Sunday morning, June 19, the sporting authority had allthe means necessary to preserve the interest of the race,"added the statement.

"And yet the sporting authority rejected the proposedsolutions. Why? In our view, this is totally incomprehensibleand reflects a lack of respect for the spectators."

The Michelin teams had asked for a temporary chicane to beinstalled at Indianapolis to enable them to compete, a requestrejected by the FIA.

They world body suggested instead that Michelin-shoddrivers take the corner at reduced speed, use the pit lane orcome in repeatedly for a change of tires.

Michelin chairman Edouard Michelin wrote to FIA presidentMax Mosley, with copies to the seven teams, on Mondayexpressing his strong disappointment at comments made by theBriton in the aftermath of the debacle.