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FIA WEC: Series Addresses Promoter Issues In Brazil

This weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship season finale at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has dealt with a few shortcomings caused by the local promoter. Numerous vendors reportedly went unpaid by Fittipaldi Group after rendering services for the 2013 WEC round, which has led to an intense effort to rectify the problems that have followed.

Vendors are said to have withheld various items and refused to perform several tasks until the Fittipaldi Group, which is owned by Brazilian hero and three-time Formula 1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, pays the outstanding invoices.

The WEC arrived at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace this week to find the media center flooded after heavy rains broke through the ageing structure, missing or malfunctioning internet and telecommunication lines, missing or non-operational cabling and connections for many trackside television cameras, and intermittent timing and scoring functionality throughout the complex.

One reporter also noted Fittipaldi, who entered the race in a GTE-class Ferrari, was barred from accessing his hospitality suite and had Fittipaldi Group signage removed until a financial transaction took place.

Fittipaldi is also said to have drawn the ire of the series for promoting his participation as a driver in the event via social media while numerous aspects of the infrastructure required to run the race were left untended by his company.

WEC CEO Gerard Neveu addressed the situation while meeting with members of the media on Sunday morning, and broke the ice with a joke before delving into the issues.

“We’d like to apologize for the ‘fantastic’ conditions you have this weekend,” he said in a wry tone. “It was a challenge to make sure you are not like Formula 1 guys; we still keep one round per season with the wild conditions to make sure everything is working very well… I’m joking.

“[The problems are] not from our side. Our [team] has [only] slept for two hours per night dealing with the issues.”

Sao Paulo was not on the 2015 WEC calendar released by the FIA in October, although Neveu has previously stated his desire to return in 2016. Without improvements, or possibly a new promoter, Neveu says the WEC’s future in Brazil could be in jeopardy. He also offered an interesting assessment of Fittipaldi’s strengths.

“I’m not sure there is a possibility to do another international race until they meet [our standards],” he said. “In life sometimes you have to be happy with what you receive, not what you expect. At the end, the event will happen. For sure, I think Emerson is a fantastic driver.”

“We are discussing [the future] with different partners; the target is to be back in 2016, but there is still many discussions now with many parties in Brazil. As soon as we find a solution, we have a meeting in the winter to see if all the good conditions are rejoining together to welcome the WEC in two years.”

Demolition is planned for the soggy pit lane structures next week, and with better conditions in place, Neveu sees the chances of a return by the WEC increasing.

“With new facilities, we believe everything is possible in Brazil in 2016,” he said.

Marshall Pruett