If you’ve been reading this blog for any extended period of time you know that not only are we based in Long Beach, California, but I have personally been a resident of Long Beach for pretty much my whole life.
As such, the “Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach” has always been a big deal and it is honestly one of the reasons why I fell in love with motorsports.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I got a press release in my inbox this morning from the Grand Prix Association Of Long Beach stating that Toyota is withdrawing their title sponsorship from the race after a legendary 44 year run; which is one of the longest title sponsor relationships in motorsport history, maybe even in all of professional sports period.
There have been rumors of Toyota possibly pulling out of the Long Beach race ever since the OEM announced they were moving their HQ from Torrance, CA to Plano, Texas back in 2014.
However, I figured that since Toyota still had so many dealerships in Southern California, their 40-plus year relationship with the Grand Prix Of Long Beach would be solid enough to survive the move.
Though, as they say, long distance relationships never work out in the end. The first crack in the stone came back in 2016 when Toyota announced that they would be pulling the celebrity race from the Grand Prix weekend due to their move to Texas making it harder to provide race support for the event.
That was definitely a bummer for me because watching famous people crash into each other for charity was one of my favorite parts of the race weekend; but I was able to live without it if it meant that Toyota could still keep supporting the Grand Prix as a whole.
On the outside it looked like the future was still bright for the partnership between Toyota and the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach.
Yet, it seems there were obviously some major things in motion behind the scenes which ultimately led Toyota to pulling out.
As to what those reasons are, I currently don’t know. I did reach out to Toyota and right now their official statement is the following:
“Toyota has had an incredibly successful 44 year-run as the entitlement sponsor of the Grand Prix of Long Beach. We value the relationship we’ve built over those years, but feel it is in the best interest of Toyota to no longer be the entitlement sponsor.”
I am currently digging a little deeper to get more information from Toyota’s Motorsport Division and I will update this post should I get anything new to add.
For now all I can go on is speculation. Currently my leading theory is that the new guard at Toyota took a long hard look at the race and decided that it wasn’t worth it to sponsor an Indy Car race when Toyota had little involvement in the motorsport series participating in the Grand Prix weekend.
There are no Toyota engines in Indy Car, Indy Lights cars are powered by Mazda engines, no Toyota powered cars in the IMSA series, and no more celebrity race.
The only actual Toyotas that raced in the entire Grand Prix weekend was a pair of Toyota 86s in the TCA Class of the Pirelli World Challenge series.
Though despite having little actual racing involvement, Toyota branding was still getting a ton of eyeballs from all the brand activations on track and at the expo in the Long Beach convention center. So perhaps my theory isn’t all that sound after all.
The question now is what will the future hold for what is now known as the “Grand Prix Of Long Beach”?
Who will fill the title sponsor role and how will that affect the event? The next race is still schedule for April 12-14th, 2019 so we at least know this move hasn’t delayed anything.
I guess we will just have to wait and see how things shake out. What do you think will happen? What company would you want to take over as the title sponsor?
Let us know your theories, speculations, wishful thinking, and opinions in the comments below or tweet to us at @MotorworldHype.
For the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach’s official statement, scroll below.
LONG BEACH, Calif. (August 16, 2018) – Toyota Motor North America has announced its decision not to renew its title sponsorship agreement for the annual Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The following is a statement from Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach.
“We have had a phenomenal relationship with Toyota for 44 years, a record in the racing world. In recent discussions, however, Toyota has elected not to renew as the title sponsor. This has now opened up an opportunity to identify a new title partner. Coming off a very successful 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, we’re excited about the future and are exploring all possible sponsorship opportunities that might exist in the market.
“Toyota came aboard our fledgling event in 1975 as Official Pace Car provider and in 1980, Toyota stepped up to become our entitlement sponsor and remained in that position for 39 years. In 1976, Toyota created the charitable Toyota ‘Race for Youth’ Match Race which would become the world-famous Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race starting in 1977, continuing for the next 40 years. Among the many beneficiaries of this race were the Children’s Hospitals of Long Beach and Orange County. Together, over the years, we were able to build the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach into America’s #1 Street Race.
“On behalf of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, I would like to thank Toyota for all that it did to help us grow our event and make it what it is today. We are proud to have had Toyota be the most prominent of our sponsor partners for so many years.”
The 2019 Grand Prix of Long Beach will take place April 12-14.