Yes, the Civilization way of dealing with world wonders is not ideal (you can get beaten by 1 turn), but I personally consider the Elemental version to be even worse. It makes everything a research race instead of a build race. A build race is the more logical thing for world wonders, but from a game mechanics point of view, a research race is equally good. However, the current system is very intransparent and if Stardock want to keep this mechanics, some important thing should be fixed:
* The success message ("Leader X has built Y") should be changed to "Leader X has started building Y". Because THIS is the point where you have won/lost the race.
* Researching the necessary tech first should already trigger the success message. Having to add the world wonder to any build queue without the intent to actually build it, is total nonsense.
* A change of perspective: The actual reward of the research race would be not an immediate one, but the exclusive right to build world wonder Y -- whenever you want to do so later. Not 100% logical, but okay for me.
That's the way to fix the current system. If it's meant to be a research race, than make it a research race. Completely. (Remember the founding of religions in Civ4? Basically, that's how a research race should work: you research something first, you get the benefit.)
However, I think that there is a better solution. Building of world wonders should really be a build race, not a research race, and the chance to beat your competitors is part of the fun. The key element here is making defeat more acceptable. While is does not mean a big loss if you come second in a pure research race (you need the tech anyway), losing a build race where you spent 50 turns or so, that's really annoying. The Civ makers have come up with the idea of giving you back some money for your 90% complete world wonder which unfortunately has to be scrapped out of the blue sky. That's okay, but not really satisfying.
What I always wished from the Civ series was another option: you get information on the state of wonder building by all civs and then it's up to you whether you want to abandon the project or pursue it, knowing the risk of getting beaten. In FE, it could be done like this: you get messages like "Travellers report that the Kingdom of Gilden has started a huge project." [read: 0%, but started; no disclosure of what it actually is] -- "Travellers report that the huge economic project undertaken by Gilden makes good progress" [read: 50% finished; it belongs to a group of wonders] -- "The Gilden kingdom accounded that their project called Merchantcross bazaar nears completion" [read: 75% finished, full disclosure what it is] -- and then the completion messages "Merchantcross bazaar finished by Gilden". At the 0%, 50%, and 75%, the player(s) have the chance to scrap their project with little loss or risk it. Various levels of disclosure (debatable) add atmosphere. I think this solution would be much more fun to play than either a pure research race or a build race where you feel the strong urge to load an old saved game on losing it.