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Toronto GP to get federal money?
Fresh on the heels of its title sponsor's financial difficulties, the Champ Car Grand Prix of Toronto has hired an Ottawa lobbyist to help secure federal money for the July 6 race.

With Steelback Brewery and sister company D'Angelo Brands Ltd. having sought bankruptcy protection in November, race president Charlie Johnstone needs to replace an estimated $500,000 in cash and another $500,000 in promotion the beer outfit brought to the table in 2007.

"My major focus right now is a new title or presenting sponsor, and frankly, it's been going well," Johnstone said.

"Obviously, Steelback has some business difficulties that they are facing, so we do not have a deal in the beer category right now, but we are talking to a number of companies," he said.

Steelback signed a long-term deal to be the title sponsor of the race after Molson ended its 22-year association with the event in 2006.

The race has been owned by Champ Car after the series bought out Molson two years ago. Some empty seats that first year under the new management led some to speculate that attendance had slipped, but race organizers declined to release numbers.

Johnstone confirmed an attendance dip in 2006 but insisted the numbers rebounded last year, in part due to Steelback's promotional activities featuring its president Frank D'Angelo. One Steelback TV spot showed D'Angelo interviewing Hollywood star and Champ Car team co-owner Paul Newman.

With Steelback's future up in the air, Johnstone is expected to meet with the company to explore the possibility of continuing the association "in some capacity."

Steelback or not, the race will have a beer partner because the opportunity is too good to pass up, Johnstone said. Such a sponsor is able to offset its costs by the amount of beer purchased, he explained. "And you get people to try your product, and we have their target group: They want male consumers between the ages of 19-24."

Race organizers are also exploring other funding possibilities, including federal money. Last month, the race registered David Angus, a senior partner with the Ottawa-based Capital Hill Group, as a lobbyist. His task is to investigate "opportunities for government co-operation with the Toronto Grand Prix" in the form of "grant, contribution or other financial benefit," according to the filing.

Toronto and Ontario already commit some cash to the race, which is run on the 11-turn, 2.825-kilometre temporary street circuit at Exhibition Place. The three-day event is said to pour about $50-million into the GTA economy.  More at Globe and Mail

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