A US appeals court on Friday rejected an attempt by disappointed Formula One fans to get their money back for having to watch a 2005 race where tire problems sidelined 14 of 20 drivers.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, in a 3-0 decision, upheld a ruling that spectators at the 2005 US Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway had no contractual right to a race with a full complement of at least 12 drivers. Michael Schumacher won the race.
Drivers of cars equipped with Michelin tires pulled out of the June 19 race amid concern by the manufacturer that it was unsafe to drive at turn 13, one of the track's fastest parts.
Ralf Schumacher, Michael's brother, had crashed during practice when one of his Michelin tires blew out on the turn. Another driver had done the same a year earlier.
The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, which governs Formula One, refused to allow drivers to use tires different from those they used to qualify, or to build a temporary barrier that would have forced drivers with Bridgestone tires to slow down thereby evening the teams.
Several fans sued FIA, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp, Michelin and racing teams, saying Formula One rules require a grand prix to have at least 12 cars. They sought a refund for tickets and travel costs, though Michelin has since been allowed to refund ticket costs, the appeals panel said.
But Judge Richard Cudahy, writing for the panel, noted that while a six-car race "may be less rich, interesting or challenging than a 12-car race, it is not prohibited or nonsensical under the rules (like a soccer match between three teams or a basketball team getting a first down).
"The plaintiffs had no contractual right to a different performance," he added. "There is no reason to claim, as the plaintiffs in all seriousness do, that no race occurred."
One of the lawyers representing the ticket holders, William Bock, said, "We're obviously disappointed" by the ruling. He added an appeal to the US Supreme Court was unlikely.
The Indianapolis speedway is also home to the Indianapolis 500 race.