The Toyota-sponsored Grand Prix of Long Beach is no more. The race itself, however, will continue.

IndyCar: Toyota ends 44-year sponsorship of Long Beach Grand Prix

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One of the most popular races on the IndyCar schedule, which has also held the longest-running event entitlement sponsorship in all major professional sports, will no longer have its title sponsor.

Toyota Motor North America on Thursday announced that after a 44-year run, it will no longer sponsor the Grand Prix of Long Beach – or to many, simply the Long Beach Grand Prix.

Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, issued the following statement:

“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.”

Even though Toyota will no longer be sponsor, Michaelian assured racing fans that the 2019 Grand Prix of Long Beach will go on as scheduled April 12-14.

Toyota reportedly had told both race promoters and city officials back in April, at the conclusion of its most recent three-year contract, that it would not return. This despite drawing an event record 185,000-plus for this year’s event.

The company’s Twitter account — @ToyotaGPLB — has already been changed to @GPLongBeach.

“Toyota has had an incredibly successful 44 year-run as the entitlement sponsor of the Grand Prix of Long Beach,” Toyota said in a statement. “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.”

Thursday’s announcement was “not a huge surprise,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia told The Orange County Register.

“Once (Toyota) made the decision to move of their operations out of Southern California and over to Texas, I think a lot of us wondered if that relationship would continue,” Garcia told The Register. “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.”

IndyCar officials have not released a statement about Toyota’s departure.

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Dakar Stage 8 Highlights: Ricky Brabec blows engine, retires

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The motorcycle class of the Dakar Rally has been a seesaw affair through seven stages, but Ricky Brabec seemed poised to win the class for the USA. Until he blew an engine in Stage 8 that is – and gave up a more-than seven second lead. He was the second rider to retire after starting the stage as the leader. Joan Barreda retired in Stage 3.

Brabec was looking to become the first American rider to win in 27 years, but his fate was eerily similar to last year. Three days from the end of the stage, he retired about 50 kilometers into the stage, which is precisely when and where he retired in 2018.

With Brabec’s trouble, Toby Price leapfrogged from third to second in class despite riding with a metal pin in his wrist. In the world’s most grueling endurance event, it has never been more obvious that it isn’t over till it’s over.

Meanwhile, Nasser Al-Attiyah continues to run a consistent rally. With a 46 minute advantage over Nani Roma and Sebastien Loeb, all he needs to do is stay error free for the final two stages to win his third Dakar.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Sebastien Loeb scored his fifth stage win of the Rally by seven minutes over Nasser Al-Attiyah, but problems in Stage 3 have kept him from being competitive for the overall lead. … Jakub Przygonski earned his third podium of the Rally. All of these have been third-place finishes.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 46:29 over Roma and 46:45 over Loeb.

In motorcycles, Ricky Brabec’s blown engine opened up the class once more. … Matthias Walkner narrowly edged Pablo Quintanilla by 45 seconds. … But it was Toby Price’s third-place finish that helped elevate him to the class lead. … Sam Sunderland was supposed to blaze the path for the riders, but a malfunctioning navigation system kept him from rolling off first. Blazing the trail is a disadvantage and officials adjudged him to have tampered with his system to avoid that fate. Sunderland was penalized an hour to finish 35th on the stage. He dropped to ninth in class.

Class Leaders: Price inherited the lead over Quintanilla by 1:03 and 6:35 over Walkner

In side by sides, Francisco Lopez Contardo scored the victory over Cristian Baumgart by 4:47. … Gerard Farres Guell rounded out the top three.

Class Leaders: Contardo holds an advantage 0f 54:10 over Rodrigo Piazolli and one hour, 08:09 over Guell

In quads, there was no surprise in Nicolas Cavigliasso winning his seventh stage of the season. … He padded his overall advantage over Gustavo Gallego by more than nine minutes. … Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli finished third.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso holds and advantage of one hour, 24:52 over Ferioli and one hour, 44:04 over Gallego

In trucks, Dmitry Sotnikov won the stage to take over the class lead. He beat Ton Van Genugten by 22:01. … Siarhei Viazovich rounded out the top three. … Eduard Nikolaev lost the class lead by finishing eighth – nearly one hour behind Sotnikov.

Class Leaders: Sotnikov holds an advantage of 26:49 over and one hour, 7:43 over Gerard de Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Sam Sunderland [2] (Stage 5 and 7), Matthias Walkner [2] (Stage 2 and 8), Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4) and Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [7] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [4] (Stage 2, 5, 6 and 8), Nasser Al-Attiyah [2] (Stage 1 and 4) and Stephane Peterhansel [2] (Stage 3 and 7)

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [4] (Stage 2, 6, 7 and 8), Reinaldo Varela [1] (Stage 1), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [3] (Stage 1, 2 and 5), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4), Dmitry Sotnikov [2] (Stage 6 and 8) and Gerard de Rooy [1] (Stage 7)

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