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uploaded 6/30/2005

Michelin Problems at USGP

I'm talking to people I know in the tire industry soliciting opinions and comment about happenings at the 2005 USGP. Here's my first thoughts.

Everyone in the racing world is aghast at what occurred at the USGP in Indianapolis. Michelin supplied their team "partners" with tires that failed catastrophically in service at speed.

Not only did Michelin fail to supply a tire capable of running reliably at this event but they then showed not the least awareness of the word or spirit of the F1 "sporting rules" by demanding that the course be changed to lower the possibility that their fast but unreliable tires would fail. Bridgestone and Michelin have both had tire failures at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the past but for 2005 Bridgestone supplied tires that showed no problems.

What's most surprising is up until now Michelin has been regarded as the most paranoid and secretive but also the most analytical and technically competent of all the tire manufacturers. They have (had?) the reputation for making the best tires, both street and racing.

I'm not a fan of Max Mosley, the FIA president, but I have to say he is, at the moment, the voice of sanity in racing and anyone can follow his dealings with Michelin and the F1 teams by going to the FIA website. Click on F1 and read the press releases.

Michelin's English F1 website is here. Click on News for their attempts to spin attention away from their extraordinary actions at the USGP-supplying tires that failed in use on track.

I especially like the last paragraph in Max's June 29 press conference statement:

"You have seen the various exchanges of correspondence, you have seen the letter that was sent this morning to Mr. Edouard Michelin and you will have seen how they said in their letters that they had no knowledge of the forces on their tyres. And if I were not able to show that in a Michelin letter then you would think that I had invented it, because it is an extraordinary statement for them to make. They also said that they could not guarantee their tyres wouldn't burst if used under extreme conditions and that is of course exactly what Formula One is. I think it doesn't need me to launch into an attack on Michelin after what we have seen of them and what they can do and their responses over the last ten days. The facts speak for themselves. It is a disastrous performance and that company should be deeply ashamed. I don't intend to go into the detail but I certainly can if asked to do so."

If you have a copy of my book The Racing & High-Performance Tire you can get an idea of my frustration with tire companies by reading the introduction. Starting on page 176 I wrote about the F1 tire war and include an interview with Bridgestone's F1 Development Manager Hirohide Hamashima. In that interview I asked Mr. Hamashima about Ruben Barrichello's crash that day which could have been caused by a tire failure at the same point that Ralf Schumacher's tire failed three years later. Mr. Hamashima didn't tell me it was a tire failure but he didn't lie either.




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