Toyota Motor North America has decided not to renew its title sponsorship agreement for the annual Grand Prix of Long Beach, which it has sponsored for 44 years, it was announced Thursday.
"We have had a phenomenal relationship with Toyota for 44 years, a record in the racing world,'' Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, said in a statement. "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."
There was no immediate word from Toyota on what prompted the company to drop its sponsorship.
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"Toyota has had an incredibly successful 44-year run as the entitlement sponsor of the Grand Prix of Long Beach,'' according to a statement from the company. "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."
Michaelian said that "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.