Ave Ready to Defend SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series Title as 2011 Season Kicks off Next Week at Sebring International Raceway

TOPEKA, Kan. -A year ago at this time, SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series veteran Tony Ave, of Maiden, N.C., hadn’t won a Trans-Am Series race.

Tony Ave (No 4 Corvette) took his sixth victory of 2010 at Road Atlanta ahead of Mike Skeen (No. 81 Corvette). Credit: Willa Stein/SCCA
Twelve months later and on the eve of the nine-race 2011 Trans-Am Series season opener at Sebring International Raceway next Friday, however, Ave returns as the series champion. The Wisconsin-born racer dominated the 2010 campaign to the tune of six victories and seven pole positions, never looking back after taking the points lead with his first career victory at Miller Motorsports Park last June.

It was truly a magical season for Ave. He will look to recapture that magic next week at Sebring after a busy off-season.
“Obviously, we want to come back and defend the championship and I’m also running a second car, which is a new Ford Mustang I just built for a guy named David Jans,” Ave says. “He’s going to run all season with us as well. I’m going to have to start the season out in the car that I finished last year in (the yellow No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette), which is owned by Larry Beebe from Florida, because the new car I was building for myself sold and we’re sending that overseas. We’ll have two cars at Sebring and all year, at least two cars, and we’re looking forward to trying to win some more races and trying to win another title.”

One of Ave’s secrets to success – as he proved last season – is to keep his focus narrowly on his own team and his own efforts and not getting caught up in what his competition is doing. That said, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him this season with drivers such as 2010 series runner-up RJ Lopez, of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, past Trans-Am Series race-winner (and fellow Wisconsin native) Cliff Ebben and Ohio’s Amy Ruman ready to challenge him at the season opener.

“To be honest with you, ever since I’ve been racing snowmobiles as a kid, I never really worry about who else is going to show up and I haven’t changed,” Ave explains. “Obviously, RJ, you would assume he’s going to be super tough and there are going to be other guys that come in and out that you don’t really know about, but for us, it’s all about continuing to develop the cars. We always do the best job we can with whatever budget that we have and that’s not going to matter if we’re racing against 100 guys or 10 guys.”

Ave expects the slate of high-quality events on the calendar will bring more competition to the series in 2011. Beginning with Sebring alongside the American Le Mans Series, Trans-Am will visit many of North America’s legendary road racing facilities this season on traditional event weekends with the continent’s other top road racing series like ALMS, World Challenge and GRAND-AM.

“Our events are really good for us,” he says. “We have a lot of interest from other potential people that want to race with us at certain events during the year. I think a lot of that has to do with the quality of events that we’re going to, for example, Sebring, which is huge, and Petit Le Mans is huge. I think we have a pretty good cross section of the type of series that we’re with and tracks that we’re at. You couldn’t ask for more from the venues.”

With great venues and more competition, the ingredients are in place for an outstanding 2011 SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series. Given his druthers, however, Ave would prefer to pick right up where he left off last season.

“Hopefully, we have some good races,” he says. “But I wouldn’t mind making a few of them boring again if I could.”

We’ll all find out starting next week at Sebring.

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