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Gracia loses licence for drink driving

NEWS STORY
09/03/2013

The FIA's vice president, and president of Spain's automobile association has been caught drink driving and consequently lost his driving licence.

In what will be seen as hugely embarrassing for the FIA, which is spearheading a number of global initiatives in terms of road safety, including drink-driving, it has been revealed that Carlos Gracia has been stripped of his driving licence after being caught driving under the influence.

It is understood the incident took place last October in Zaragoza, and sees Gracia banned from driving until June.

Explaining the situation, Gracia told the Spanish radio station Cadena Cope: "I made a mistake one day. I went out to celebrate my sister's birthday and had one drink too many. The police stopped me. I hadn't had an accident but I was over the limit and they took away my licence."

A controversial figure, it was Gracia who led the fact finding mission to Bahrain in 2011 which saw the country's Grand Prix (temporarily) reinstated to the calendar after being dropped in the wake of worldwide condemnation of how the authorities were reacting to growing civil unrest.

Gracia's claim that all was effectively well and that the race could go ahead was widely condemned, not least by Former FIA president Max Mosley, who had originally promoted the Spaniard to his role as vice president.

Insisting that the race would not go ahead - it didn't - Mosley said: "The problem there was they sent someone to look at Bahrain but the gentleman they sent, a very, very nice man called Gracia, speaks no English and, as far as I know, speaks no Arabic. He was then taken around by the representatives of the government and had no knowledge of what was really going on, and above all he didn't ask to see the people who a human rights lawyer would like to see."

When it was suggested that Gracia spoke to opposition groups, Mosley said: "Apparently they are very close to the government and I don't think he would have been allowed to speak to them if not."

In 2007, Gracia came to attention when, under his direction, the FIA appointed 'Fair Play Tsar' at the season ending Brazilian Grand Prix. The appointment of the Tsar was to ensure that there were no 'dirty tricks' in the McLaren camp at the season finale, the Woking outfit, indeed the sport still reeling from the infamous Spy-gate saga that had cast a shadow over the sport for much of the summer.

The move followed concerns that Gracia had expressed to (then FIA President) Max Mosley, that the Woking team would favour Lewis Hamilton.

"I showed my concern over the situation that Fernando is going through, which is no secret, and he reassured me," Gracia told Spain's AS newspaper, referring to the conversation with Mosley. "The FIA are going to have an official who is going to watch very closely that nothing bad happens to Fernando, above all in qualifying, which is where there have been most complaints or strange situations in recent races."

Days later, the situation worsened further when it appeared Gracia was accusing British race fans of being racist. Asked about the level of support Lewis Hamilton, in his debut season, was enjoying, Gracia was claimed to have said: "It's understandable that they want to make the most of it. But given how racist they are in England, the fact that they have to rely on a coloured driver... They tried it with (Jenson) Button and he let them down."

Gracia was quick to deny making such a comment, telling Reuters: "I want to make it clear that I do not believe in stereotyping any nationality. There was no racist element to what I said and I am a great admirer of England. I did not say that.

"The accusations that have emerged go against the very principles I've defended in 23 years at the head of the Spanish Federation. What I meant was that England have been looking for a Formula One idol for many years and no matter who he was they were going to give him all their support. I have always had great respect for Hamilton as a driver and that respect remains even though he can take the title away from Alonso."

While the Gracia attributes the latest misdemeanour to a "sister's birthday" it is unclear what occasion prompted him to lose his licence in 1996 and again 2003, however, according to Spain's El Confidencial both license suspensions were for "non-appropriate driving in Burgos and Girona".

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