The Jim Russell Racing Drivers' School is welcoming in the new decade in terrific style - by opening entries and confirming details for its 2010 campaign that will reward the eventual champion with a fully-funded drive in next year's FIA Formula Two Championship, worth in excess of $440,000.

The 2010 Jim Russell Championship Series (JRCS) features eight weekends of two races on consecutive days, utilising a variety of configurations at the challenging Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California - a venue that features the Jim Russell Racing Drivers' School's multi-million dollar facility. The school offers a complete driver training programme courtesy of some of the finest coaches in the world, whilst the cost for a seat in the 2010 JRCS is $129,000.

The FJR-50 single-seaters are owned and prepared 'in-house' by the JRCS, ensuring equality and placing the emphasis firmly on driver talent. The Lola-built Formula 3 machines feature a carbon/kevlar fibre composite monocoque, a sequential five-speed gearbox and a two-litre, turbocharged Mitsubishi engine producing 300bhp.

Gary Carlton and Alex Ellis are already confirmed on the 2010 grid after being chosen as the winners of the inaugural Jim Russell Future Driver Search by Britain's double Le Mans 24 Hours winner Allan McNish. Meanwhile, Brett Smrz - winner of the Jim Russell series for the past two years - has been tempted back by the phenomenal prize on offer.

"The 2010 JRCS will be an exciting competition," underlined McNish. "The standard of drivers at Jim Russell's Future Driver Search event was extremely high, and with ultimate winners Gary [Carlton] and Alex [Ellis] joining double JRCS champion Brett [Smrz], plus the other competitors, that guarantees it will be a hard-fought 16-race series. They'll all be fighting for the title and the stunning prize of a fully-paid F2 drive in 2011, which offers a clear plan for a driver and the prospect of knocking on the door of Formula 1.

"The FJR-50 is essentially an F3 chassis with high downforce and 300bhp, and is a perfect platform to develop a driver's talent. Having a 'common' chassis, each prepared to the same specification, allows for a driver's skills to shine through. The championship offers great value for money, giving every driver a development programme, both in and out of the cockpit, plus a clear career direction through to the very top - helping today's aspiring young drivers on the road to becoming tomorrow's champions."

The outright 2010 JRCS Champion will compete in the 2011 FIA Formula Two Championship aboard a Williams F1-developed single-seater. Last year's F2 champion Andy Soucek was awarded an F1 test outing with Williams at Jerez in December as his prize for winning the title, as the top three championship finishers all qualified for an FIA Superlicence and are thus now eligible to compete in F1.

"The addition of the Formula Two award to our series champion firmly sets the Jim Russell Championship Series as the premier developmental formula car series that provides an excellent path to the upper echelons of motorsport at an amazingly modest cost," remarked Chip Pankow, President of the Jim Russell Racing Drivers' School.

"Our series has been designed to foster and identify talent with the emphasis on value for money. Our philosophy is that a career in motorsport should be as merit-based as possible, not purely a financial equation."

The Jim Russell Racing Drivers' School was formed in Britain over 50 years ago, and has since helped to put the likes of Emerson Fittipaldi, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Scott Speed, Danny Sullivan and Jacques Villeneuve all on the road to success. More recently, reigning Indy Lights Champion J. R. Hildebrand - the 2004 JRCS Champion - successfully tested for Force India F1 at Jerez.

"My goal is to be fully-prepared for the opening races," asserted 18-year-old Ellis, "enabling me to drive to my full potential and to capture the championship title and the prestigious FIA Formula Two ride."

"I'm fully aware this will be the first time I've ever raced this type of racing car," cautioned Carlton, "but if I get a good amount of testing under my belt before the first race, I'm confident I will have a good shot at winning the championship, which is of course my aim."

"The F2 prize will allow a driver to compete in Europe," explained 2008 and 2009 JRCS champion Smrz, who last season earned himself a Team USA Scholarship. "That is essential if you want to make a career as an open-wheel racer. It's a great opportunity for me, and I am going to go after the championship with everything I've got.

"The FJR-50 cars are brilliant and are very even - you 'draw' a different car to race on Saturday and Sunday. It's the same chassis, the same engine and the same [Yokohama] tyres for everyone - the only difference is the person behind the wheel.

"Infineon is one of the hardest tracks in North America, but the series helpfully allows you to compare data with chief instructor Nico Rondet so you can learn what you are doing wrong in the car - and importantly, what you are doing right! The championship is organised extremely well; a driver arrives at the track, hops in the car and races and then goes home - a nice and simple 'arrive-and-drive' system."

The 2010 JRCS schedule will begin on 17-18 April, and is set to conclude just under seven months later on 12-13 November.

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