Junior Open Wheel Talent

News and Views on Drivers Chasing Open-Wheel Stardom

Ellis and Carlton Win Future Driver Search

by Ryan Stringfield
Posted December 23, 2009 at 10:54 am Karting Scholarship, open wheel racing news

Alex Ellis and Gary Carlton are the winners of the 2009 Jim Russell Future Driver Search.  Both drivers will receive a fully-funded ride in the 2010 Jim Russell Championship.

Ellis, 18, was the best “all-rounder“, meaning he was the best all-around selection on-and-off the track.  Gary Carlton, 23, was awarded his prize for setting the fastest lap in the FJR-50 race car during the final day of evaluation.

The judging panel was led by Allan McNish, who was very impressed with the competition at the event.  “I was pleasantly surprised by the high standard of all of the drivers,” commented McNish in a release. “Even the ones that didn’t progress through at the halfway stage were all of a good standard. It was a very closely fought competition not made any easier by the changeable weather conditions we experienced at times – but that’s motor racing.”

The event started with 40 drivers— you can view the full entry list here.  After the first two days of competition the judges split the group in half, sending 20 drivers home.  Heading into the final day of competition, the judges sent another 14 drivers home.  Six drivers remained;  Bastien Graber, James Kovacic, Felipe Polehtto, Gary Carlton, Alex Ellis and Jeff Westphal.

Two drivers emerged from the final six to win the fully-funded rides in the 2010 Jim Russell Championship.

Alex Ellis (photo-Emotive)

Alex Ellis- "Best All-Rounder" (N.Napierala Photography)

Alex Ellis, from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, competed in the Formula BMW-Americas series this season and finished 6th in the final standings.  He earned 3 podiums, 2 fast laps and 1 pole position in 14-starts.  His best finish was 2nd which occurred at Road America.  His improvement was evident in 2009 and I expect we will see even more out of him in 2010.  In 2008, his first season in cars, he drove in the F1200 Canadian series finishing 2nd in the overall championship.  He claimed 5 victories and found himself on the podium in 73.3% of his race starts.  Prior to his car racing endeavors he developed his craft in go-karts.

“Winning this means absolutely everything to me, having dedicated my life, mine and my family’s money, in to succeeding in motorsport so you can understand I’m absolutely elated – it’s more than a dream coming true, it’s a massive turning point in my life,” stated Ellis in a release.

Gary Carlton

Gary Carlton- Fastest Driver (N.Napierala Photography)

Gary Carlton, from Marysville, California, entered the event with very little car experience.  The 23-year-old has spent most of his life in a go-kart but proved to everyone exactly how beneficial karting can be when you make the transition to cars.  Carlton was extremely fast all weekend and earned himself a fully-funded ride by setting the fastest lap of the day in the closing evaluation.

McNish was very impressed by Carlton, “Considering the lack of time Gary has spent in a single-seater, especially one [the FJR-50] at such a high technical level, he was very impressive,” continued McNish. He didn’t make a single mistake throughout the event and was always running towards the front. In his ‘home’ habitat of karting, he was extremely quick and very good in traffic.”

Carlton was a favorite to win the overall event.  He has always had the work effort and the natural ability it was just a matter of getting that elusive opportunity.

“Winning this initiative will literally change my life,” said Carlton in a release. “I know what I’ll be doing in 2010, I can focus and prepare fully for the months ahead which are certainly going to be exciting as well as challenging. I’ve had a great time over the past four days and have learned a great deal in terms of on and off the track.”

Both drivers plan to compete in the 2010 Jim Russell Championship which kicks off in April.  The winner of the 16-race 2010 Championship will earn a fully-funded ride in the 2011 FIA Formula Two Championship.

You can read the official press release here.

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