Michelin tries to court disgruntled F1 fans

GREENVILLE, SC: Michelin is trying to repair its image with US Formula One racing fans after some competitors pulled out of its the US Grand Prix because of tire safety concerns.

GREENVILLE, SC: Michelin is trying to repair its image with US Formula One racing fans after some competitors pulled out of its the US Grand Prix because of tire safety concerns.

The company is offering refunds for the race as well as free tickets to a 2006 event. It unveiled the plan with a news release, and senior officials have been discussing the refunds in interviews.

This year?s race saw only one-third of scheduled cars competing after teams using Michelin tires withdrew over safety concerns.

The incident is part of a long-simmering feud between suppliers and Formula One officials, noted Chris Balfe, editor of www.pitpass.com, a British website that reports on Formula One racing.

Michelin had asked the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to modify a turn at the track to decrease pressure on its tires. When the speedway and Formula One authorities refused to make the change, Michelin advised teams using its tires to pull out of the race.

Angry fans threw things on the track at the event and some have contacted the speedway about refunds.

Phil Romba, senior public relations manager for Michelin North America, said that language in the press release reflected ?a difference between the way our colleagues [at the company?s headquarters in France] see the issue with how we see the issue.?

?The sporting authority rejected the proposed solutions,? the statement read. ?Why? In our view this is totally incomprehensible.?

The US PR department had advised the company to ?look at how we can help fans come back to the race? rather than revisiting the dispute between Michelin and Formula One, Romba noted.

But Michelin officials in France also embraced the idea of refunds, which the US PR team had ?played a role in suggesting,? he added.

Michelin will give refunds to people who attended the June 19 US Grand Prix in Indianapolis. It also will buy 20,000 tickets for next year?s US Grand Prix and give them away.

?We?ve been making recommendations that would address the local market [in Indiana] as well as the national market,? Romba said.

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