Toyota expected to renew with Long Beach

UPDATE #4 Look for this sponsorship renewal announcement to be made at the next Champ Car race in San Jose, California. Mark C. 07/18/05 We are close to upgrading this rumor from 'strong' to 'fact.' We heard in Edmonton that Toyota is close to signing a new 5-year agreement with the Grand Prix of Long Beach. There may be option years involved as well. We expect an announcement in the not too distant future. 07/11/05 After doing further research on this rumor today it appears that the original article was misleading. There is no indication that Toyota won't renew as title sponsor of the Grand Prix of Long Beach. We will keep this rumor rated as 'speculation' until Toyota renews…….or not. 07/10/05 Toyota's recent announcement of its withdrawal from American open wheel racing has also prompted renewed speculation about two of Toyota's remaining linkages with the Champ Car, namely the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the Toyota Atlantic Series. Toyota's lengthy deal (Some 30 years or so) as title sponsor of the Long Beach race concluded this year and Kalkhoven, who — along with Champ Car co-owner Gerald Forsythe — purchased the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach from former parent company Dover Downs Entertainment, said potential deals are in the works for a replacement title sponsor. "There are a number of discussions with manufacturers and I can't say any more than that at this minute," he said. 06/01/05 GPALB President Jim Michaelian was delighted by the news of the sale of Long Beach to a Champ Car group. "We needed to get the situation clarified," Michaelian told National Speed Sport News. "It was time for us to begin our planning for 2006 and beyond. The city, the sponsors and a lot of fans were involved in the decision-making process and we owed them an answer about the direction we were going to go in. Now that the purchase has been made, it defines our future very clearly."

Michaelian estimated that 30 to 35 percent of the Long Beach audience is made up of hard-core Champ Car fans who would have reacted adversely if the race was changed to IRL sanction.

"There is definitely a very fervent, loyal and substantial following for Champ Car and that obviously was a factor to take into consideration in weighing which direction to go in," he said. "The fact that we've had Champ Car at Long Beach for 22 years gave it a certain amount of inertia or momentum that has been built up. It makes it a lot easier to continue on in that mode than to change and go to something else.

"Kevin and Gerry have put together a good team at Champ Car," Michaelian added. "Obviously our familiarity with them and theirs with us is important in going forward. There is going to be very little learning curve. We've worked together for a long time and know each other and I think that's going to be beneficial in the planning process for next year."

Toyota has been represented at Long Beach from the first Formula 5000 race back in 1975, as title sponsor since 1980. Toyota's National Motorsport Manager Les Unger told NSSN he sees no reason why that relationship should end after the change in ownership.

"As soon as the deal is officially official, we plan to begin discussions," Unger said. "We've been involved with the Long Beach Grand Prix for 31 years, and unless something dramatic or unexpected occurs, we expect to continue the relationship."

"Our first appointment after all this activity that has taken place is to discuss with Toyota what their involvement will be with the race," Michaelian confirmed. "We're very anxious to retain them as the title sponsor. They've been with us for 31 years, 25 of them as the title sponsor. We're going to do everything in our power to retain them and even expand on that relationship in the future." National Speed Sport News

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