Tony Ave: A Racer Contributing to Prize Fund for Fellow Competitors

It’s not as uncommon as one may think. Well, in motorsport.

A racer – often referred to in this industry as a competitor – competes to win. To beat his competitors. To win and collect as much of the prize fund as possible.

But grassroots racing is different. Yes, a racer who wins an SCCA U.S. Majors race, for example, collects $600 from Mazda. Win the SCCA Runoffs, collect $5,000 from Mazda. Win a Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship, collect an award that reaches to $200,000 to go racing the next season.

Yes, racing can be expensive. Yes, racing can be done relatively affordably. Though, I am not really sure what relatively means, but it sounds better. So why give money away – any bit of it?

Tony Ave, a Trans Am Series driver, and two-time champion, is also an SCCA GT-3 racer. And he is our example today.

Tony competed in his first GT-3 Challenge presented by MPI event at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in California last month. He intends to rent a GT-3 race car from fellow competitor Joe Kristensen for the next GT-3 Challenge event at Road Atlanta later this month.

This is a series Mazda Motorsports, MPI, Carbotech Brakes, AiM Sports, Bell Racing, Penske Racing Shocks, Goodyear Rubber & Tire, and Hoosier Tires have joined forces to support. Well, these companies joined forces to support these racers. Many – perhaps most – have been weekend warriors, towing their own cars to these SCCA events for 20 years or longer, wrenching on their race cars during the weekend, before and after, just to keep the fun and passion alive. It’s not the money. It’s not the fame – no matter how cool the cars are. It’s the comradery and passion that fuels them (pun intended). It’s the people.

While it may sound as though we have not answered the question of why a competitor would put up money to pay other drivers, we really have. It’s about the camaraderie. It’s about the competition. And since most of the competitors are veterans in motorsports, the field size has been shrinking over the years. To compete, most racers have needed to work on their own cars; to tow them; these cars don’t present the easy button. It takes work before, during, and after the event to maintain them. Perhaps we should have said earlier these machines are for the tinkerer. In a society that has gravitated to being convenience-based, this anything but convenience-based racing class – GT-3 – participation has picked up since last year – since the racers and partners rallied together.

This is the only formula that works – people supporting people. The only way to turn around a decline is for the people to rally together. And when Tony Ave offers up his own money for a prize to his competitors, it reinforces this message, which is the most important thing – not the money itself.

Oh, and what’s the prize? It’s the message he has sent to his fellow racers. The racer who attends the most 2020 GT-3 Challenge races, including the SCCA Runoffs, will receive $1,000. Fitting is that the tie breaker would be a vote among the GT-3 Challenge competitors, selecting the person who works hardest to rally the other racers. And, of course, Tony withdrew his name from the pot. But we at Mazda Motorsports did decide to call it the “Ave Motorsports United Challenge.”