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Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach New Title Sponsor Of The ‘Number One Street Race In America’

Shortly after Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President and CEO Jim Michaelian announced Acura’s title sponsorship, the clouds parted over the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center. “Right on cue, the sun’s shining outside,” Michaelian said. “I think that bodes well for this partnership as we get started together.” (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Annette Semerdjian)

Honda luxury brand Acura has signed a multi-year agreement to become the title sponsor of the Grand Prix of Long Beach – just in time for the running of the 45th annual race on downtown city streets on April 14.

Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, announced the news on February 6 during a press conference at the Terrace Theater. “We’re very excited,” he told the Business Journal. “I think this is a tremendous opportunity for the event, for the city and . . . we’re delighted with the way this whole thing has developed.”

Acura Vice President and General Manager Jon Ikeda said his company was excited by the opportunity to sponsor the Grand Prix. “We’ve refocused ourselves on precision-crafted performance and gone back to our roots as the performance division of Honda,” he told the Business Journal. Ikeda said this was evidenced by Acura Team Penske and its lineup of precision vehicles and professional drivers, including 2018 IndyCar Grand Prix winner Alexander Rossi. “Having a real big race with Long Beach Grand Prix just seems like a big stamp that we’re serious about what we’re trying to do with our brand,” Ikeda said.

Acura was the “ideal choice” to host the racing event, Michaelian said at the press conference. He noted the brand’s commitment to quality vehicles as well as its longtime involvement in the Long Beach Grand Prix. Acura’s parent company, Honda, has won more races at the Grand Prix than any other car manufacturer, he said from the podium.

Created in partnership with Honda Performance Development and French racing team Oreca, the Acura ARX-05 is the fifth iteration of Acura’s sportscar prototypes. A pair of the cars debuted at the International Motor Sports Association’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where they placed fifth and seventh overall. The No. 7 car, featured in this photograph, is co-driven by Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Annette Semerdjian)

Mayor Robert Garcia, also present at the event, said Acura’s sponsorship brings a “new energy and excitement to our city.” He noted that the economic impact of the race totals about $30 million per year and generates about $700,000 in tax revenues for Long Beach. Michaelian said the event brought 185,000 people to the city in 2018.

“It puts Long Beach on the map,” 2nd District Councilmember Jeannine Pearce said of the annual event. Pearce, whose district includes the racing circuit, said the Grand Prix “really highlights the ability to live, work, [and] play in Downtown Long Beach.”

Acura replaces the previous title sponsor, Toyota, which sponsored the event for 39 of the motor event’s 44 years. At the press conference, Michaelian took a moment to thank Toyota and the Southern California Toyota Dealers Association for their decades-long contribution “to making this the number one street race in America.”

Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, called the Acura sponsorship “good news” for Long Beach. “It’s exciting that the Grand Prix got the quality and the caliber of a sponsor they deserve,” he said. “They’re going to be as invested as [the Grand Prix Association] is, and I think their distribution of dealerships and their reach out into the public of Southern California will be vital for this year’s race.”

Honda’s North American headquarters is located in Torrance, and there are 20 Acura dealerships spread throughout Southern California.

Both Michaelian and Ikeda told the Business Journal that Long Beach’s improvements to its infrastructure and amenities over the years continue to make it an inviting venue for street racing. The Grand Prix Association has renewed its contract with the City of Long Beach through 2023, Michaelian said, “and hopefully for many more years to come.”

The 45th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is scheduled for April 12 to 14 and will include the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) IndyCar Series, the Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix, the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as well as other events such as the Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge and the Historic IMSA GTO Challenge. “We’ve got concerts on Friday and Saturday night, which we’re working on finalizing talent for,” Michaelian said.

At the press conference, Michaelian noted that, as part of an agreement with the mayor and city council, construction for the grand prix circuit would begin one week later than in past years, on February 18.

For more information about this year’s events, or to purchase tickets, visit: gplb.com.

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