Two rounds of the Champ Car World Series look set to benefit from fresh sponsorship deals, with the Grand Prix of Toronto gaining a new title backer and Houston signing a track sponsor that should enable it complete the upgrades requested after 2006.
Ontario's Steelback Brewery is set to be unveiled as the new title sponsor of the Grand Prix of Toronto, the first alternative backer since rival brewery Molson became involved at the city's first Champ Car race 21 years ago. The deal, which should be confirmed at a press conference later today [Tuesday], is expected to run for five years, and will see the event renamed as the Steelback Grand Prix.
"We knew Molson wouldn't be there forever," Grand Prix spokesperson Shannon Davidson told the local Toronto Star
newspaper, confirming that there had been talks with several interested parties, "This one showed the most interest in terms of leveraging and promoting the event. Someone who could move fast enough definitely played a part too."
Meanwhile, down in Texas, industrial valve manufacturer JAG Flocomponents was introduced as the naming rights sponsor of the street circuit that plays host to the Grand Prix of Houston, which will now be called 'JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park'.
Grand Prix officials confirmed that, as a result of the sponsorship, major upgrades will be made to the facility for 2007, including significant improvements to the track surface, which came in for criticism when Houston made its CCWS debut in 2006.
"The support of the business community is vital to the success of our event, so we are delighted that JAG has chosen to make this investment in the Grand Prix," said event general manager Chuck Kosich, "The support of JAG Flocomponents will allow us to make investments in our event that bring us closer to our goal of establishing the Grand Prix of Houston as one of the finest street races in the world."
Before finalising plans for the improvements, event Prix officials studied the existing surface and conducted thorough research on possible plans of action. Each driving lane of the racing surface was graded on a standard roughness index in six-foot intervals. Champ Car engineers provided suspension data including pushrod strain, damper travel and vertical body acceleration, while Bridgestone engineers and Champ Car provided other useful information. As a result, race officials decided that track grinding was necessary in order to improve the surface for 2007.
"We recognised the need to improve the surface of the racetrack, but there were many factors to review and a number of possible solutions to consider," said director of operations Kyle Novak, "After extensive research, we believe we have determined a course of action that will produce the best possible results for JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park."
The track is scheduled to be ground from the exit of turn four to entrance of turn six -(Dome Stadium Drive around the Reliant Astrodome - and the exit of turn ten to entrance of turn one - the start-finish straightaway. The track will be ground in approximately four-foot wide swathes, which will leave behind a 'corduroy' finish with 50-60 tiny grooves per foot of width. Work will commence on 24 March after the conclusion of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
"We are very excited to be able to make this investment," Novak concluded, "When the teams from American Le Mans and Champ Car arrive to compete in the 2007 Grand Prix, they will find an improved racetrack that should result in outstanding world-class racing for the fans."