Alex Ellis. of St Catharines, Ontario, has won the Jim Russell “Race of Champions” title after winning the fifth and sixth rounds respectively at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Jim Russell Future Driver Ellis now looks ahead to making his Firestone Indy Lights début at the Infineon Raceway when he contests the Carneros 100 at Sonoma on August 22 – his spectacular prize for triumphing in the Jim Russell “shoot-out” races.
Ellis, who celebrates only his 19th birthday on Sept. 25, claimed the Jim Russell “Race of Champions” title after recording four wins and two seconds in the six-race series which began in June.
"It was a perfect day,” reflected an elated Ellis. “I pulled out the perfect sweep taking pole and then winning both races.
"I am really excited about the prospect of the Indy Lights race. The series is huge and to be able to compete at that level so early in my career is amazing. I want to thank Jim Russell for providing this opportunity as without the Future Driver Search path I would not have been able to achieve this so soon.”
Ellis led the six-race competition from the first race in June and ultimately triumphed over fellow Future Driver Search winner Gary Carlton by seven-points. Carlton, a two-time race winner and the only other driver to have won a race, had begun the final two races just two points behind Ellis.
A clean start in Race One saw Ellis take an early lead from pole position closely pursued by fellow front row starter Nick Galante. By lap three Ellis had extended his lead setting fastest lap of the race with Galante still in his mirrors. On lap 10, Galante dropped a wheel off at the exit of Turn Six allowing Carlton to close the gap but Nick fended off his advances to the checker.
A very close start in Race Two saw Ellis, Galante and Carlton head into Turn 1 as one with Carlton snatching second from Galante around the outside of Turn Two which allowed Ellis to break away, the Canadian extending his lead to over three seconds by lap seven.
“At the Future Driver Search event last December, we saw that Alex had a speed, maturity and great adaptability to changing circumstances and he has gone on to develop these qualities over the season and his poles and wins have been confirmation of what we believed when we chose him,” said double 24 Hours of Le Mans race winner and three-time American Le Mans Series champion Allan McNish. “In motorsport, results are everything and producing top results under pressure is what makes a champion. Both Alex and Gary Carlton, the other Future Driver we selected and who pushed Alex hard for this fabulous prize, have proven both on and off track that we made the right decisions against very tough opposition. I am proud that we at Jim Russell are a key part in their careers.”
“We knew that Alex [Ellis] was fast and had excellent fundamental abilities when we chose him as our 2010 Future Driver winner and he has further impressed us this season with his maturity, consistency and racecraft,” commented Chip Pankow, President of the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School. “We have been very pleased with our two Future Driver winners, both have shown the speed, consistency and intelligence necessary of a champion during our ROC events. They have battled against some of the best open wheel drivers with significant experience in the FJR-50 and have come out on top. I am confident that in both cases we made the right decision on our 2010 Future Drivers, the results have proven it.”
Each drove identical FJR-50 single-seaters owned and prepared in house by the Jim Russell Championship Series ensuring equality and placing the emphasis of success on driver talent. The Lola-built Formula Three machines feature a carbon/kevlar fiber composite monocoque, a sequential five-speed gearbox and a two-liter, turbocharged Mitsubishi engine producing 300hp.
Ellis will contest the Firestone Indy Lights race with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, the all-time dominating team in the series which placed three drivers in the top 10 of last year's championship. The team has scored 34 pole-positions and won 31 Indy Lights races.
Jean Karl (J K) Vernay will be out next week to test with the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School in an FJR-50 at the Infineon Raceway. Vernay and Ellis will team-up and have full data sharing privileges at the test and during the race at Infineon on Aug. 22.
Ellis concluded: “I am eagerly looking forward to the test and then of course the race. I am ecstatic to be representing myself and the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School and I plan to do us both proud. My goal is to place in the top-10 but the top-5 would be even better."