Ellis Snatches Early Advantage in Race of Champions

Left to right: Gary Carlton, Greg Liefooghe, Alex Ellis, Brett Smrz, Nick Galante and Aleks Altberg (photo courtesy of Pat Barrett)

Alex Ellis (St Catharines, Ontario, Canada) has snatched an early points lead in the Jim Russell “Race of Champions” shoot-out after placing first & second in the opening races at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma yesterday (June 12).

Ellis leads from fellow 2010 Future Driver Gary Carlton by two points after two of the scheduled six race invitational competition which runs June-August and sees the outright points winner claiming a seat in Round 9 of the Firestone Indy Lights at the Infineon Raceway.

Qualifying had been tight with the two Future Drivers filling the front row after 2008 & ’09 JRCS champion Brett Smrz made a slight mistake on his best lap and would occupy the inside of row two aiming to put his JRCS experience to good effect in the two, twenty-five minute races.

Pole-setter Carlton led away Ellis at the green light of Race One with Smrz pressing the two “rookies” but the Canadian dived into the lead at Turn 2 with Carlton spinning down the field on the next lap allowing Smrz to close in on Ellis. Ellis maintained a 1.2secs advantage on Lap 10 while Carlton reduced a 18secs deficit and overtook Galante in Turn Seven on lap 11 before applying intense pressure to Altberg for third place.

In Race Two, pole-sitter Carlton and Ellis exchanged the lead on the opening lap, Gary taking the advantage when Alex lost time in Turn 9 while Liefooghe overtook Altberg for fifth position on lap four. Carlton extended his lead to 3.6secs by mid-distance before backing off while Smrz chased Ellis for second. Carlton took the checker 2.5secs ahead of Ellis who finished 1.4secs ahead of Smrz.

All 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 300bhp.

The next two rounds are staged on July 9 with the concluding races on August 6 with the champion going forward to the Indy Lights Carneros 100 race at Sonoma on August 22.

Brett Smrz (Coeur d’ Alene, ID) – 2009 JRCS Outright Champion:

Race 1 Result: 2nd. Race 2 Result: 3rd. Championship position: 3rd, 15-points.

“I put the pressure on today but couldn’t quite pull it out.  I’ve knocked the rust off and Gary Carlton and Alex Ellis had better be looking out for me next month!”

Nick Galante (Novato, CA) – 2009 JRCS Masters Champion:

Race 1 Result: 5th. Race 2 Result: 4th. Championship position: 4th, 11-points.

“It’s great to finally get in the car this season. The level of competition and the car are bar none and I am definitely planning on giving those guys a run in the next couple of races.”

Greg Liefooghe (San Francisco, CA) – 2009 JRCS Runner Up:

Race 1 Result: 6th. Race 2 Result: 5th. Championship position: 6th, 9-points.

Aleksander Altberg (San Francisco, CA) – 2009 JRCS “Rookie of the Year”:

Race 1 Result: 3rd. Race 2 Result: 6th. Championship position: 5th, 11-points.

Gary Carlton (Marysville, CA) – Jim Russell 2010 Future Driver:

Race 1 Result: 4th. Race 2 Result: 1st. Championship position: 2nd, 16-points.

“These were my first ever proper races in single-seaters. I’ve never been behind someone or had real pressure before so I learned a lot from the first race. I took what I learned and applied it to the second race, it was a steep learning curve but I pulled out the win so I am happy about that. I am definitely looking forward to the next races in July.”

Alex Ellis (St Catharines, Ontario, Canada) – Jim Russell 2010 Future Driver:

Race 1 Result: 1st. Race 2 Result: 2nd. Championship position: 1st, 18-points.

“It would have been nice to take both the wins today but I was really hot on my tires the entire first race. It left me with not much for the second race, the front tires were just about done, and I had to be really aware of that. That made it a battle to keep Smrz behind me the whole race and that became my focus. I can now look forward to next month and hope to maintain my championship lead.”

Visit www.jimrussellusa.com for more information.

Results:

Qualifying (for Races 1 & 2);

1. Gary Carlton, 1.37.61

2. Alex Ellis, 1.37.98

3. Brett Smrz, 1.38.36

4. Nick Galante, 1.39.95

5. Gregory Liefooghe, 1.40.77

6. Aleksander Altberg, 1.41.07

Race 1:

  1. Alex Ellis
  2. Brett Smrz
  3. Aleksander Altberg
  4. Gary Carlton
  5. Nick Galante
  6. Gregory Liefooghe

Fastest Lap: Gary Carlton, 1:38.991

Race One Rostrum (l-r): Aleksander Altberg, Alex Ellis and Brett Smrz

Race 2:

  1. Gary Carlton
  2. Alex Ellis
  3. Brett Smrz
  4. Nick Galante
  5. Gregory Liefooghe
  6. Aleksander Altberg

Fastest Lap: Gary Carlton, 1:39.638

Race Two Rostrum (l-r): Brett Smrz, Gary Carlton and Alex Ellis

Jim Russell “Race of Champions” (latest standings):

  1. Alex Ellis, 18-points
  2. Gary Carlton, 16pts
  3. Brett Smrz, 15pts
  4. Nick Galante, 11pts
  5. Aleksander Altberg, 11pts
  6. Gregory Liefooghe, 9pts

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