The 2018 running of the Long Beach Grand Prix marked Toyota's 44th consecutive year of sponsorship of the event, and as revealed on Thursday, its last. Event officials announced in a formal statement that Toyota will not renew its backing for next season's trip to the SoCal streets, ending what has been a long-serving relationship with the hallmark race.
Starting in 1975, Toyota's eponymously-promoted event has brought the greats of open-wheel racing to the Golden State. Drivers such as Mario Andretti, Al Unser Jr., and a list of other legends have earned the title "King of the Beach" by winning at the temporary road course, bringing major historical significance to the contest.
The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach gave the following declaration on August 16:
As detailed in the address, next year's edition of the Grand Prix will be held April 12-14.
“It was a very difficult decision,” said Laura Pierce, the general manager of motorsports for Toyota. “It’s been a partnership. We’re very sad and sorry to see it end.”
According to a report by the Long BeachPress-Telegram, the race weekend helped generate $33 million for Long Beach and $63 million for the region as a whole in 2018. Attendance was also at an 18-year high with 185,000 fans visiting the GP over three days.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia explained that the move by Toyota was foreseeable after it moved its North American headquarters from Southern California to Texas.
"...I think a lot of us wondered if that relationship would continue,” Garcia said according to the same report from Press-Telegram. “So it’s unfortunate, but we’re very grateful to them. They were here for a very long time, and I’m confident the Grand Prix will find another great sponsor.”
Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, added: "They [Toyota] were aware of the success of the event, They were a part of it. Coming out of the recession, we’ve had five good years.”
Organizers will immediately begin the search for a new title sponsor as well as an automobile sponsor with Toyota opting to pull out of both roles.