INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Tony Ave will drive an LAC Motorsports Panoz Esperante sponsored by Wickes Lumber in the Trans-Am Series for the BF Goodrich Tires Cup for the 2002 season, announces team owner Kerry Alexander. Ave, who brings more than a...
INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Tony Ave will drive an LAC Motorsports Panoz Esperante sponsored by Wickes Lumber in the Trans-Am Series for the BF Goodrich Tires Cup for the 2002 season, announces team owner Kerry Alexander.
Ave, who brings more than a decade of diverse driving experience to the team, is not a new face to the Wickes Racing Team. Ave helped Alexander cap the challenging 2001 season with a promising effort in Houston. "I'm pleased to be working with Kerry because he is involved on a day to day basis. And, since he's raced a lot himself, he can relate to me," says Ave, adding, "I'm also looking forward to working with (crew chief) Nicholas Short. I've worked with him in the past and he knows how I want cars to run."
"We are very excited to have him as our primary driver this year. Tony will be a tremendous asset to the team, and we feel he will win some races and make a strong run for the championship," says Alexander, adding, "I can't think of anyone I would rather have as a hired gun. His experience and talents are nothing but the best. We will be ready to rock and roll come Miami!"
Ave's experience in the Trans-Am Series includes the stint behind the wheel of the Esperante at Houston in Oct. 2001, where he logged a practice time in the top three but left the race early due to a stripped first gear. As far as Alexander is concerned, the Wickes Racing Team is picking up for the 2002 season right where they left off at the end of the 2001 season, when they found a great combination in Ave and the Esperante. "We started to get a hold of the car's handling in Houston," says Alexander, "We realized at that point we were doing something right when Tony could get into the top three in the practice session."
Ave and Alexander, both encouraged by the progress the team made at the end of the 2001 season, logged some testing laps at Virginia International Raceway in December, and were pleased to get a jump on the competition at one of the seven new circuits added to this year's schedule. "It was a good opportunity to get in the car again and to see the new track," says Ave.
Although he has experience and interest in a variety of other series, Ave is excited about racing a full-blown sports car. "Trans Am racing for me is the most fun. I really enjoy these cars the most. It was easy to decide to take advantage of this opportunity, especially with the LAC Motorsports Team," he adds, explaining the LAC shop is close to his Indianapolis home, so he can easily stay in touch with the team.
While Ave will concentrate on racing and testing the Wickes Lumber Panoz Esperante throughout the 2002 season, his name will be listed on other racing entry lists. "Kerry has given me the latitude to do whatever other racing or testing I want to do, as long as the Trans Am Series is the priority," he explains.
Ave's previous Trans-Am series experience dates back to 1995 and includes Fast Five qualifying efforts and finishes in the top three. In addition to his experience in the Trans Am Series, Ave has raced in a variety of open-wheel pavement and dirt series, stock car, sports car, prototype and snowmobile series and has been a test driver for several other types of cars.
The LAC Motorsports team, established in 1989, is preparing for its third full Trans-Am season in 2002, the 37th year of Trans-Am Series competition. Ave will face the rest of the Trans-Am Series drivers in Miami for the season opening street race on April 6. The series will visit ten more temporary street courses and permanent road courses around the United States and Canada before a champion is crowned at Virginia International Raceway on Oct. 27.
The series also races on the street circuit at Long Beach, Calif. April 14; Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ont. May 19; Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. May 27; Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio June 29 and Burke Lakefront Airport Circuit in Cleveland, Ohio July 13. The series also visits a new street circuit in Washington D.C. July 20; Trois-Rivieres Street Course, Montreal, Que. Aug. 4; Road America Road Course in Elkhart Lake, Wisc., Aug. 17; a new street circuit in Denver, Colo., Sept. 1 and Road Atlanta Road Course in Braselton, Ga., Oct. 11.