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Sports Business

Could Brazil race imperil IndyCar drivers?

November 9, 2010
KEYWORDS Sports Business

The IndyCar Series may have another problem with one of its 2011 race venues.

How big is the problem? Depends on who you ask.

Formula One driver Jensen Button reported that he and his McLaren guests narrowly avoided being carjacked while in Sao Paulo for the Brazilian Grand Prix Nov. 6.

Button said the incident shows how dangerous Sao Paulo can be for the race drivers who venture there. Luckily, Button said he had a police-trained driver and a bullet proof Mercedes-Benz B-class car. In a separate report, several engineers for the Sauber team also were robbed the same weekend. Button was lucky, as he got away without giving anything up. The engineers reported being robbed of all their possessions.

The IndyCar Series is set to be in Sao Paulo for a race May 1. The series was in Brazil last year incident free. Still, Button is cautioning the drivers because locals know that most of them have money and other prized items.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said perceived riches are not why Button was targeted. He told Racer Magazine that he’s gone to Sao Paulo for more than 40 years, even jogging on the beach wearing expensive watches and other jewelry and never had a problem.

Ecclestone’s advice for Brazilian-bound racers: Toughen up—and qualify high. What did you expect from the man known in racing circles worldwide as the Iron Dwarf?

“They look for victims, they look for anyone who looks like a soft touch and not too bright,” Ecclestone told Racer. “People who look a bit soft and simple, they will always have a go at. I think for the race weekend they probably watch TV and see who’s not qualified in the top 10 and think, ‘Well, they must be a bit stupid, otherwise they would qualify in the top 10.’”

Ecclestone then asked his interviewer where Button’s McLaren team had qualified.
Button qualified 11th.

“There you are, you see? I rest my case.”

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