Tio EllinasTio Ellinas has very quickly established himself and JTR as title contenders for the 2010 MSA Formula Ford Championship and has already got a lot of people talking about him since his race début at Oulton Park at the weekend.

Tio had just five outings in a racing car before the Easter weekend meeting though most of his running was affected by poor weather and red flags. Despite this, Tio was quickest by up to two seconds in the two wet test sessions on the Friday before the first race.

On Saturday morning, Tio was still getting up to speed in the dry during qualifying. With seven minutes to go he set the quickest time ahead of the experienced Josh Hill, Scott Malvern and Daniel Cammish all in their second year of Formula Ford. However, with three minutes to go, Australian driver Scott Pye pipped Tio for first place and so Tio had to start race 1 from second on the grid. It was a shame because if he had held on to that first place, he would have been the first driver to get pole position for a British Formula Ford race in his race début since Ayrton Senna thirty seasons ago!

Race 1: Tio held his grid position and was running second behind Scott Pye but a pedal problem caused his foot to apply 30% throttle while braking. This caused his brake pedal to go “soft”. His telemetry showed that this cost him 0.4 seconds per lap which prevented any challenge to Scott Pye and forced him back towards Malvern, Hill and Cammish. The pressure from Malvern and the “soft” pedal caused him to lose two places but he still managed to pressurise Hill into a spin. He finished fourth, his first ever car race. Tio, Malvern, Hill and Cammish’s fastest laps were separated by 0.02 of a second!

Having spent Easter Sunday fixing the pedal problem, Tio and the excellent JTR team were looking forward to Monday’s two races where Tio would start 7th and 6th.

Race 2: Unfortunately, Tio stalled his engine as the cars were going out on the green flag lap. He had to wait in the pit lane while the rest of the field did two laps of the slightly damp track. In the race, Tio stormed through the field from a distant 25th place to challenge Jake Cook for 6th on the last lap. He made an error attacking Cook that lost him one place. He set the fastest lap and was the only driver to get under 1:41:00. Team boss, Nick Tandy: “A lot of drivers would have over-driven and made mistakes. Tio put his head down and drove a very fast race and overtook a lot of people. It was an amazingly mature performance!”

Race 3: Tio started 6th on the grid. The result was that he found himself in 6th place in the race behind Daniel Cammish but obviously quicker. He made a move down the inside of Cammish at Turn 1 and unfortunately ran out of room. He went over the top of Cammish’s rear wheel and his race was over! The team felt that if he had sat behind Cammish for eight laps nobody would have been happy and it was best to have a go. Tio has learnt a valuable lesson!

The only driver to have outpaced Tio all weekend was Jamun driver Scott Pye in the dry. Title favourite Pye had already competed in over 80 Formula Ford and Formula Toyota races before this year and had tested a lot with Jamun before the first race. Jamun have won the British Formula Ford title for the last five years and, with four drivers, have a lot of testing data to call on to aid performance. They use a new 2010 spec car where JTR are still using last years chassis.

All of the team are extremely impressed by Tio’s performance.

Stuart Prior, JTR’s coach, said he was flabbergasted by Tio’s performance all weekend and that Tio drives a Formula Ford as well as anyone he has ever seen…already!

Guy McCullough, Tio’s race engineer, said that Tio basically has almost nothing to learn from the data of JTR’s previous drivers and now has to forge ahead with development of the car to go faster. Guy says that when you tell Tio to do something, he does it perfectly from then on and that he is great to work with.

Nick Tandy, JTR team principal, said that he was “blown away” by Tio’s performance and that he is very proud Tio is driving his car. Nick has won the Formula Ford Festival and was a race winner in British F3 but when he saw Tio through Lodge Corner in the wet he said “I couldn’t do that!”