Tobacco laws force Player's out

Player's cigarettes, the flagship brand of Canada's Imperial Tobacco and one of the premier sponsors in the Champ Car World Series, has confirmed that it will withdraw from it's partnership with Gerald Forsythe's team, due to new Canadian tobacco laws preventing sports sponsorships that come into effect on October 1

Tobacco laws force Player's out

"I regret to announce today that this will be the last season for Player's," remarked Imperial CEO Bob Bexon. "In 1997, the federal government introduced new legislation and restrictions pertaining to the tobacco industry, and part of this legislation bans sponsorship as of 2003."

Player's and other Canadian tobacco companies continue to fight the legislation in courts, but Bexon said the likelihood of the rules being overturned is virtually nil.

Player's began sponsoring Canadian motorsports events in 1961, but the company's recent legacy of success dates to 1993, when it sponsored Jacques Villeneuve's move from Japanese Formula 3 to the Toyota/Atlantic series.

Villeneuve won the 1995 CART title with Player's sponsorship, and subsequent Champ Car drivers to be sponsored by the brand include Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani, Paul Tracy and the late Greg Moore. Current points leader Tracy may find himself driving a plain white car in the final three races of this season due to the ban.

"Tobacco is a legal product and companies should be able to advertise a legal product," commented Tracy. "I guess the government doesn't see it that way. These companies have supported motorsport and done a lot of good things, but people like to focus on the negative things. They don't pay attention to the jobs and opportunities that have been created."

Gerald Forsythe now has the task of finding a company to step up and replace Player's role as co-owner and reputed $25 million sponsorship.

"If anyone listening is interested in buying or sponsoring a racing team, give me a call," joked Bexon. "It would be a tremendous opportunity. It's pretty much a turn-key operation for someone to take over."

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