Ave's Atlanta ups and downs, VIR preview

INDIANAPOLIS ^Ë After another double-duty sportscar racing weekend, Tony Ave, driver of the ...

INDIANAPOLIS ^Ë After another double-duty sportscar racing weekend, Tony Ave, driver of the #53 LAC Motorsports/Trilithic Panoz Esperante, is ready for even more action before the season wraps up Oct. 27 at Virginia International Raceway.

Ave led 10 laps before finishing 6th in the Trans-Am Series for the BF Goodrich Tires Cup race at Road Atlanta last Friday.

On Saturday he teamed with Mark Goossens and Jim Mathews to pilot the American Le Mans Series #36 Riley & Scott Mk IIIC -Elan LMP 900 in the 10 hour Petit Le Mans, qualifying 6th and finishing 9th in class after a crash on lap 246.

"It was an up and down weekend," says Ave, who qualified 6th and finished 6th after the Esperante's tires wore down in the Trans-Am race. "We led several laps and planned to go the distance without pitting. We needed some cautions to do that, and it was working out to our benefit, but at the end of the day, we just didn't have the horsepower and tires to keep the lead until the end."

Ave led laps 12-22 before Butch Leitzinger passed him , and eventual winner Boris Said took over the lead with eight laps to go. Three other cars slipped by the ailing Esperante before the checkered flag flew. "The right front tire was worn all the way down to the cords, so we were lucky to finish in sixth," says Ave, already looking toward the season finale.

"We'll go to Virginia where we tested last December, and I think that will be a really good place to end the season," he says. In the days before the Virginia race, the LAC Motorsports team will continue to look at chassis adjustments. "I hope we can work out the chassis problems. We made some changes that helped us make some gains off the corner, which will be good in the twisty sections at Virginia, but there is something wrong with the chassis that is wearing the tires out. We didn't notice it at Miami because there was no grip there. In Atlanta, with improved downforce and elevation changes, the tires degraded," he explains.

Ave is confident that although the team's testing session at Virginia International Raceway didn't produce good data on the car because of the cold weather, the session gave him an opportunity to learn the track. "I won't have to worry about learning the track like everyone else. I can just jump straight to it," he says.

In the 10 hour ALMS Petit Le Mans, Ave was behind the wheel of the R &S LMP900 on lap 246 when quick evasive action put him into the tire barrier with a heavy hit. "I got boxed in racing with the Audis when I was in 6th place. We were all lapping a really slow car, and he basically stopped right in my lane."

Ave and the rest of the Trans-Am regulars finish the 2002 season with a race around the 3.27 mile, 17 turn Virginia International Raceway, an event which will be broadcast live Oct. 27 on Speed at 1 p.m. local time. The Trans-Am 100 from Road Atlanta will be broadcast on Speed Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. Eastern, also on Speed.


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About this article
Series Trans-Am
Drivers Butch Leitzinger , Boris Said