CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto: Team Players end sponsorship

After 42 Years at the motor-racing forefront in Canada, Players to end sponsorship activities following the 2003 season Montreal, Quebec, July 10, 2003 Player's Ltd., a staunch supporter of Canadian motor-sports' events and racing programs for...

After 42 Years at the motor-racing forefront in Canada,
Players to end sponsorship activities following the 2003 season

Montreal, Quebec, July 10, 2003 Player's Ltd., a staunch supporter of Canadian motor-sports' events and racing programs for the last 42 years, announced today that the 2003 season will be its last as a sponsor, a role that includes its co-ownership of Team Player's in the Champ Car World Series.

In making the announcement at a news conference in Toronto, site of this weekend's Molson Indy race involving Team Player's, Bob Bexon, the president and CEO of Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited, which markets the Player's brand, said the decision to bow out is related to the impending federal government ban on tobacco-company sponsorship

Federal government legislation, introduced in 1997, set down a series of restrictions pertaining to the tobacco industry, including the banning of sponsorship activities as of October 1, 2003.

"The Tobacco Act is currently under appeal by the three major Canadian tobacco manufacturers," said Mr. Bexon. "However, due to the legislation that will be in force as of October 1, we have no other choice but to withdraw from motor-sports sponsorship. We are taking our leave with a great deal of reluctance and sadness, but we do so with considerable pride in what has been accomplished in the last 42 years."

Player's has been a pioneer, as well as an innovator in its racing sponsorship. It was at the forefront in staging the Player's 200 at Mosport, Ont., in 1961, the first international motor sports race in Canada. A few years later, Player's sponsored the first-ever Can-Am series race at Mont-Tremblant. In 1967, it presented the Player's Grand Prix, the first Formula One race in Canada. Player's was the title or associate sponsor of the Canadian Grand Prix until 2000.

Player's also introduced the Formula Atlantic series in 1974, with Gilles Villeneuve as one of the star drivers. It later sponsored Atlantic series' races in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Trois-Rivi=E8res. Player's support of racing extended to the Toronto Molson Indy in 1986, and it has a similar association with the Vancouver Molson Indy.

Player's prowess with the development of drivers and racing teams first gained prominence in 1993, when Jacques Villeneuve was named Atlantic rookie of the year. A year later, with America businessman Gerald Forsythe joining as a partner, Player's and Villeneuve moved into the IndyCar series. The association reaped outstanding dividends in 1995, when Villeneuve became the first Canadian to win both the IndyCar drivers' title and the famed Indianapolis 500.

The Player's driver development program produced more championships: Greg Moore won the Indy Lights' crown with Team Player's in 1995, before graduating to the CART series. In 1996, David Empringham (Indy Lights), Patrick Carpentier (Atlantic) and Jean-Fran=E7ois Veilleux (F1600) were three of the 10 Player's-supported drivers who won titles in their respective categories.

Heading into the 2003 season, the Player's racing program had produced 81 wins and 189 podiums in various levels of competition over the years, and had groomed Villeneuve, Moore, Carpentier and Alex Tagliani for the top-echelon Champ Car series. Prior to the 2003 season, Player's signed Canadian racing stalwart Paul Tracy to team with Carpentier, and the two drivers are currently first and fourth respectively in the drivers' standings.

"The motor-racing events that were presented, the racing teams that were formed, the drivers who were funded the aim has always been to provide Canadians with access to top-calibre motor-racing and nurture the growth and development of home-grown drivers in their career pursuits," said Mr. Bexon. "Through the years, the drivers and teams affiliated with Player' s have been outstanding ambassadors for Canada. Through their talents, they have elevated Canada to a place of prominence on the international scene."

Mr. Bexon added that along with bringing a certain dynamic and vibrancy to the Canadian cities and communities where Player's-supported events have been held, these events were also of significant economic impact to these communities in such areas as transportation, food and lodging and general retail.

Twelve of the 16 drivers that advanced through the Player's driver development program were reunited on stage today, prior to Mr. Bexon's announcement.

"I think back to my karting days and my early years in racing, and I realize that my career path would very likely have run into a big detour, if not for the Player's racing program," remarked Carpentier, in his sixth Champ Car season with Team Player's. "For me, the program came along at just the right time, And I was lucky enough that the people running the program saw the potential in me as a race-car driver to invest the time and money so that I could refine my skills."

Tracy, who had already made it to the CART series by the time the Player's driver development program was in operation, said even from his vantage point as an outsider prior to joining Team Player's this season, he was well aware of the program's merits, from having to compete against a number of the drivers who had come through the system.

"The favourable impression that I developed as an outsider has grown even stronger in the months that I have been a member of Team Player's," said Tracy, who won his first three races in Team Player's livery. "From day one and our first testing session, the meticulous way that everyone associated with Team Player's performs their respective jobs has been awesome."

Player's sponsorship of the Champ Car World Series team will end with the Fontana 500, a November 2 race on the California super-speedway.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , David Empringham , Gerald Forsythe