Michelin offers refunds for U.S. Grand Prix
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Tire manufacturer Michelin offered Tuesday to refund money to those who bought tickets for the U.S. Grand Prix, which was boycotted by seven Formula One teams after company officials decided their tires were unsafe for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Michelin also said it would buy 20,000 tickets for the 2006 race to be given to those who attended the June 19 race during which only six of the typical 20 drivers participated.
"Michelin deeply regrets that the public was deprived of an exciting race and therefore wishes to be the first, among the different groups involved in the Indianapolis race, to make a strong gesture towards the spectators," the company said.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway spokesman Ron Green said the track was not notified about the refund until 30 minutes before Michelin issued its statement.
"We're very encouraged by what they released today," Green said. "Finally, they're acknowledging that they will provide for the fans what the fans deserve. That's all we'd hoped for."
Green said the speedway expects to be asked to administer the refunds. He told fans to "sit tight" and await more information. Green said all fans who purchased tickets would be eligible for the refund.
Reserved seat tickets for this month's race ranged from $75 (?62) to $150 (?124). The speedway does not release attendance figures for any of its races, but media reports estimated the U.S. Grand Prix crowd at 100,000.
Michelin's refund offer for this year's race could cost the company about $10 million (?8.2 million) if 100,000 ticket holders seek refunds at an average of $100 (?82) each. A similar average ticket price could cost the company $2 million (?1.65 million) for the 2006 race tickets it offered to buy.
Two Michelin tires failed during practice sessions two days before the race - one causing a wreck that prevented Ralf Schumacher from competing.
Nine of the 10 teams, excluding Ferrari, proposed to run the race if a series of turns was installed to slow cars on a high-speed part of the course. Ferrari and FIA, the sport's ruling body, rejected the possible compromise, with FIA president Max Mosley saying he would not change the rules because some teams brought the wrong equipment.
Michelin said it believed the FIA's decision was "totally incomprehensible and reflects a lack of respect for the spectators."
"The reality is that together, Michelin and its partners have done everything possible to assure that the race could take place in total safety," the company said. "We are extremely disappointed that the proposals made with all our teams were not accepted. These proposals, including a chicane, were technically viable and totally met all safety requirements."