Young racer learning fast
ELKHORN -- Ava Hanssen already has made winning circles around the Midwest her second home. And she doesn't turn 7 until July 15.
The Elkhorn youngster began racing snowmobiles and go-karts at age 4.
She has proven to be a natural, even surprising her parents, Tim and Sarah, from the time she got behind the wheel competitively.
Ava earned five first-place finishes and added six seconds, four thirds and four fourths in her first season of karting, not to mention three race titles on her snowmobile.
“It's just one of those things,” Tim said. “She's always been a daredevil with no fear. And it was like the second or third time out there and she was beating everybody. So we updated her certification and motor.”
She participates in the Comer 51 Kid Kart and IAMI Bambino Kid Kart divisions (ages 5 to 7) of the Route 66 Sprint Series, competing through the Badger Kart Club and its home track, Wolf Paving Raceway, in Dousman.
Ava said she loves winning, but much of what she likes about racing is the camaraderie.
“I get to meet new people and make friends,” she said.
So, the family maintains a hectic schedule, especially with an Ava Hanssen Racing regimen that features about 30 events from late March through early October, including a regional/national gathering once a month, such as this Father's Day weekend in northern Indiana.
Ava, who will be tearing it up at speeds that can reach 45 mph, hopes to add to her collection of trophies, which has reached about 50 pieces of hardware already. Her most recent regional competition saw her haul in a first, two seconds and a fourth.
Despite all of their daughter's success, mom and dad, who own One Powersports LLC on Wisconsin Highway 50 right on the Lake Delavan inlet, must endure plenty of butterflies when their Jackson Elementary School second-grader-to-be hits the track.
“It can get a little scary sometimes,” said Sarah, who doesn't travel quite as much as her husband, who usually plays the role of Ava's one-person pit crew while mom stays behind to run the shop and/or sometimes to play taxi for 13-year-old son, Daven, whose sports of choice are baseball and basketball.
“It was two years ago at Dousman when she flipped her kart … it took a chunk out of her helmet and she hurt her arm,” Sarah said. “I saw it through the fence and started freaking out when I saw the track ambulance going out there. But she wanted her kart fixed and to get right back out there.”
Hey, that's racing, Ava said.
“My purpose is to race,” said Ava, who also is scheduled to test for her green belt in karate for the Elkhorn Flying Dragons on her birthday.
“I think I get more nervous before the race, because once they get out there it is what it is,” said Tim, who raced motorcycles and go-karts in his days before starting a family. “I'm always thinking about the kart and the track, so that's more nerve-wracking to me.”
That also goes for snowmobiling, which Ava typically does at a facility in Wauconda, Illinois, although events have been sparse because of a lack of snow since she started racing.
Still, the results speak for themselves, and the couple doesn't want to take it away from their budding star.
“It was that she improved so fast and was finishing in the top five within a couple of weeks,” Sarah said. “She was competing against 7-year-olds and she was keeping up to them. But it's still nerve-wracking.”
“She's still learning … she's much better at drafting and even bump drafting and working together with other racers,” Tim said. “The thing is not bumping anybody in the corners. She's also learned pretty well how to work her way through traffic, but it's still hard to tell her how to tone it down while she's doing it.
“But one of the best things is all of the compliments we've received about Ava's sportsmanship,” Tim said. “She's always giving other racers high-fives after races.
“The thing is that when you first meet her, she's a little shy. But once you get to know her, you'll never get rid of her. She actually invades your personal space because she always wants to hug everybody.”
It's when Ava is racing that people need to watch out for her. And her two racing machines have distinctive identifiers: the No. 26 and zombie trooper decals on the side, a little monster doll hanging behind her seat and brightly colored Mohawk on top of her helmet.
“I like telling the other kids that they did a good job and giving them high-fives,” Ava said.
However, winning and battling for trophies satisfies the youngster's competitive nature. And there's an extra bonus to her success.
“I love beating the boys,” Ava said.