Michelin open to F1 comeback – with 18-inch rims

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Michelin director Pascal Couasnon says the French tire manufacturer could be open to an F1 return in 2014 – providing the sport changes its wheel rim size.

Strict rules on Formula One wheel sizes force teams to use 13-inch wheels which are considerably smaller than those seen in other racing series. Couasnon told Le Figaro Michelin would prefer to use 18-inch wheel rims if it returned to F1.

This is not the first time Michelin has mooted an F1 comeback but stipulated it must come with a concession on wheel size. It made similar noises in 2010, when Bridgestone was poised to quit the sport, but F1 eventually chose to stick with 13-inch wheels and appoint Pirelli as official tire suppliers.

The obstacles to an increase in wheel rim size are the same now as they were then. The change in size would force a costly re-think of suspension configurations and potentially put gearboxes under greater strain.

Teams are unlikely to swallow such a major shake-up in the technical rules at this late stage in the year. Particularly when they are already grappling with the cost and complexity of the new power trains.

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has ruled out Michelin making a return. He is believed to have signed a new advertising deal with Pirelli which extends beyond the end of this season.

It is the FIA’s decision who will be awarded the F1 tire contract. But it is doubtful a rival constructor would want to supply tires to a series which is already contracted to advertise Pirelli’s product in future seasons.

Al Unser Jr. to race Pikes Peak Hill Climb for first time in 29 years

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Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. is coming out of retirement to race again.

Unser Jr., who turns 56 on April 19, will compete in the 96th Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24. It will be the first time Unser has raced at Pikes Peak in 29 years, since the 1989 event.

Unser won the Hill Climb and was named “King of the Mountain” in the 1983 event.

Unser said in 2007 that he was retiring from racing and had no plans to race in the future. However, he has taken part since then in some selected vintage racing events.

Speaking of vintage cars, Unser is slated to drive a 1936 Chevrolet Sedan in this year’s Hill Climb, according to race organizers.

He’ll compete with a number of luminaries including eight-time Hill Climb winner Paul Dallenbach; Layne Schranz, who will be competing in his 25th “Race to the Clouds”; 23-time champion Clint Vahsholtz; 25-time Hill Climb competitor David Schmidt II and three-time Climb winner Spencer Steele.

Unser recently returned to IndyCar racing as a consultant with Harding Racing, which is beginning its first full season in the series with Gabby Chaves behind the wheel.