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Michelin Offers Refund to U.S. Grand Prix Fans

Tire company will return money to all who had tickets to the race, which was boycotted by seven teams after tires were declared unsafe.

June 29, 2005|From Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — 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 the company decided its tires were unsafe at 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 expected 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 the race ranged from $75 to $150.

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 could cost the company about $10 million if 100,000 ticket holders seek refunds at an average of $100 each.

A similar average ticket price could cost the company $2 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.

The seven Formula One teams that boycotted the U.S. Grand Prix -- BMW-Williams, Mercedes-McLaren, BAR-Honda, Toyota, Sauber, Red Bull and Renault -- face punishments ranging from a reprimand to lifetime bans at a hearing before the sport's ruling body today.

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