Manufacturer Tony Ave Looking Forward to Ave-Riley AR-2's Performance in IMSA's Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda Series in 2018
Friday, December 15, 2017

Veteran sports car racer Tony Ave is looking forward to 2018 and his return to the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda Series. As a manufacturer in the series, Ave has a unique perspective on the series and his team's results with the debut of the Ave-Riley AR-2 chassis in 2017.

There are six IMSA-authorized LMP3 constructors in the world - the majority of which are in Europe - but the Ave-Riley chassis is the only American-built car, and the Ave-Riley AR-2 that Ave is driving is the first one to ever be built.

The car was designed by sports car legend Bill Riley, and is being manufactured under the leadership of Ave, who used to be a Riley Technologies test driver.

Ave says the top attributes the car has, includes the car being more forgiving and therefore easier to drive. It also doesn't hurt that everything is made right here in United States.

"Nothing is shipped from overseas - we do everything in North Carolina," he said. "Also, having the technical support from the Rileys is a big deal to us, too." 

In 2018, the No. 44 entry will be fielded by a combination of series newcomer Josh Hurley and veteran Gary Gibson sharing the car to maximize performance and results in the newly formatted series.

"Last season, I think the biggest thing for us was that we didn't necessarily have a budget as much as we wanted - we did the best we could with what we had," Ave said."But I drove the last race of the season this year and it ran very well. We weren't quite fast enough to win, but we were in it. Since then, we have run the car twice and I think we are right there."

Ave certainly approves of Prototype Challenge's new format with the series shifting from its longtime sprint race format of two 45-minute races per event weekend to a single one-hour, 45-minute endurance race.

"The feedback we've gotten so far with the Ave car and the competitors' cars is that the AR-2 car tends to be easier to drive and easier on the tires," Ave said. "I love the new format where we can have a longer run and mix it up between a few drivers. This plays in our favor.

"I like sprint racing but guys enjoy splitting the car and that can make it a little more interesting too," Ave said. "If people want to move up to WeatherTech [SportsCar Championship], they need experience doing pit stops and driver changes, so this new format just really makes sense."

Ave attributes his sports car success both in the Trans Am world and now IMSA to his team's exceptional customer service, which he notes as a significant value to potential buyers and an extra edge at the track.

"For us, customer service is an automatic," he said. "Before we did this within IMSA, we did Trans Am cars. And over the last 10 years, we've sold almost 30 cars. A big part of our business is supporting customers at the racetrack - that's how we get all that business. We have all the in-house carbon fiber stuff and we are very capable of supporting things past what most people think. The biggest thing I would say to new competitors is to talk to some of our other customers and ask them how great our service is. We take very good care of everyone.

"I think what we need to do now is to build on what we did at Road Atlanta in October and get some more podium results - that will speak for itself."