Emerson Fittipaldi facing financial difficulties in Brazil

SAO PAULO (AP) Two-time Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi is facing serious financial difficulties in Brazil, with authorities seizing trophies and racing cars from his personal museum.

Among the cars seized was the one he used to win the 1993 Indy 500, as well as one driven by the Brazilian in Formula One.

Fittipaldi's press office released a statement saying that the difficulties are ''the result of an unstable financial and political scenario'' in Brazil, which is in political turmoil and facing its worst recession in decades.

Fittipaldi's struggles surfaced after a report aired by Brazil's Record TV over the weekend. The revelations came as a surprise to most Brazilians, as Fittipaldi was largely seen as a very successful businessman following his racing days.

Tuesday's statement sent to The Associated Press said the two-time F1 champion was optimistic about overcoming this situation.

''Emerson Fittipaldi believes that he will solve this issue with more work. He has confidence in the future economic outlook and financial health of his companies,'' the statement said, adding that the driver never hid his financial struggles or denied interviews on the subject. ''He is seeking partnerships and solutions for this situation.''

In addition to the seized cars and memorabilia, authorities also took computers and furniture from the Sao Paulo mansion where his personal museum is located. Record TV showed images of the cars being towed into trucks and the trophies being carried by officials. Other properties and assets by the former driver have also been blocked, Record TV said.

''The racing cars and the trophies earned by the two-time F1 and Indy 500 champion belong to a museum dedicated to all racing fans in Brazil,'' the statement said. ''As soon as this issue is solved, they will return to their place. Emerson laments what has happened, but is not discouraged by these difficulties and is confident that these problems will be solved.''

Fittipaldi is reportedly facing more than 60 lawsuits from banks and other businesses seeking payments. Record TV said Fittipaldi's debts reach nearly 27 million reals ($8 million).

Fittipaldi raced 11 seasons in F1 from 1970-80, winning the world title with Lotus in 1972 and with McLaren in 1974. He started racing in the United States in 1983, winning his first Indy 500 in 1989, when he also clinched the CART Series title.

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