MONDAY 20TH JUNE 2005
Joie Chitwood, president and COO of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has claimed that the actions the Michelin teams - and the fact that Formula One could not reach a compromise to allow all ten teams to run in Sunday's United States Grand Prix - could have irreparably damaged the image of the sport in the USA.
Already struggling to regain a toe-hold on the continent after a series of dubious street events, Indianapolis went a long way to restore the category's credibility with US race fans. Now Chitwood has made it clear that his organisation is not only furious with what happened on Sunday afternoon, but believes that F1 could again take a popularity hit.
The track is sure to come in for considerable criticism from fans and local media in the coming days, despite being, in effect, a victim of the Michelin problems.
"We're surprised as anyone that this misfortune occurred today, and with the results we witnessed out on the track," Chitwood said, "We are as disappointed as we've ever been in hosting an event here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway."
There have already been suggestions that IMS will demand some kind of compensation from Bernie Ecclestone and FOM. It's inevitable that fans will ask for refunds, while next year's ticket sales will also take a big hit. The worst case scenario is that F1 will not be invited back to Indianapolis.
"We're going to analyse our situation, our position here," Chitwood continued, "We're probably going to respond appropriately in the next coming days. There are a number of questions like that which we will have to sit down and look at and come up with a better response.
"What occurred today was something we were not prepared for. We invested a lot of time and effort in preparing this property for a world class racing event. The inability to have control over the actions today ? to say it's a disappointment is an understatement. Everyone here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway prides themselves on producing world class events. The fact we had no control over what control over what occurred today is our greatest disappointment.
"We have been committed for the last five years to a successful event here in America. We would hope that all of those things that we have done in the last five years aren't gone. I think the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been doing a great job introducing this sport to America. We've been very aggressive in how we promote it - you can look at the activities we've done that are different than other grands prix. If anything, we've try to do our best job to promote it. Undoubtedly, this sets us back in all of our efforts or all of the gains we've made in introducing this sport to America. I would say it is a major setback."
Chitwood was also asked where he thought the blame lay.
"Well, I can tell you this. We feel as victimised as the fans do in what they witnessed today. We had no control over the ability to stage an event. The people who had the ability to control things today were the FIA, Formula One and Michelin.
Chitwood's boss, Tony George, has issued a statement suggesting that fans contact the FIA, FOM and Michelin, and includes the addresses of those organisations.
Tiago Monteiro's Jordan-Toyota EJ15 appears to have Indianapolis to itself
F1 fans show their anger after the Michelin teams withdrew from the United States Grand Prix
The US GP gets underway with only the Bridgestone teams taking the start and the Michelin runners aborting the race at Indianapolis