CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: PKV Racing preview

PKV RACING LOOKING TO MOVE UP IN CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS AT GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND PKV Racing drivers Tristan Gommendy and Neel Jani will both be looking to make a move in the championship standings beginning with the Grand Prix of ...

PKV RACING LOOKING TO MOVE UP IN CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS AT GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND

PKV Racing drivers Tristan Gommendy and Neel Jani will both be looking to make a move in the championship standings beginning with the Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by LaSalle Bank, June 22-24, on the temporary street circuit at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio.

This weekend's race in Cleveland kicks-off the most grueling portion of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season with teams contesting five races in six weeks. The tight schedule will test both PKV Racing rookie drivers and could well determine their fate in the championship race. However, both Gommendy, #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car and Jani, #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, appear up to the challenge. Both have shown the potential to finish on the podium and if they are going to make a run at finishing near the top of the standings now is the time to deliver on that potential.

Gommendy, who is a veteran of European open wheel racing having won the 2002 Formula 3 France championship and 2002 Formula 3 Macau GP, shows signs of standing on the podium almost every time he takes to the track. The talented and personable Frenchman has finished in the top-10 in two of his first four Champ Car events this year placing a season high fifth in his debut in Las Vegas to go with a seventh two weeks ago in Portland, where late race traffic thwarted a top-five finish.

In the other two events, he placed 11th at Long Beach and 13th at Houston, but in both races he more than held his own while engaging in spirited battles for the lead with three-time Series Champion Sebastien Bourdais before having to make late race stops for a splash of fuel. Gommendy has qualified in the top-10 three times in his first four races; ninth in Long Beach, eighth in Houston and a season high fifth in Portland where he was the fastest driver in the rain on Saturday, but lost a front row spot when he skidded off-track bringing out a red flag (started 11th in his Champ Car debut in Las Vegas).

The 27-year-old resident of Paris, France is ninth in the championship race with 56 points, just 13 points out of fifth place, and third in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year race. Gommendy is fourth in laps led, with 31, fifth in laps completed, with 333, and fifth in miles completed 662.807.

"The Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing team has worked very hard to improve the car since the beginning of the season and I think the driver has improved," Gommendy said. "We had our best qualifying performance in the last race and were the fastest in the rain, so I am very confident that we can challenge for a front row starting position. The car has also been competitive in the races. The Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing team just has to keep working hard, keep improving the car and I am sure we can put together some good performances in the upcoming races."

Jani has also shown glimpses of his potential in the first four races as well as pre-season and in-season testing. The 23-yer-old native of Jens, Switzerland, was consistently in the top-three during pre-season testing and at his two in-season tests he has been in the top-five both times. Jani's record in the first four events of the 2007 season has been a mixed bag, but the speed and capability to finish up front appear to be there. Jani, whose father hails from India, is currently 12th in the championship standings with 43 points and sixth in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year standings. He is just 10 points out of 10th place.

Jani has finished in the top-10 in two of his four starts this year placing 10th at the season opener in Las Vegas, where a mechanical problem in the later stages of the race prevented a better showing and seventh in Long Beach where a solid pit strategy worked, but he was hindered by a fueling problem. In Houston, he qualified a team-season high fourth and was running in fourth place when Katherine Legge knocked him out of the contest placing him 15th. At Portland, Jani showed his European racing experience by taking advantage of the new Champ Car standing start procedure, but could not achieve the fuel mileage other drivers were getting forcing him to pit early and lose track position. He finished 12th.

Jani, a member of the Red Bull driver development program since 2005 and the test driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso in Formula One Team in 2006, has qualified in the top-10 in three of the first four races this year. In addition to the team/season high fourth at Houston, he started ninth in his debut at Las Vegas and 10th in Portland (11th in Long Beach). Jani is 10th in laps completed (303) and ninth in miles completed (603.233).

"This is my first time in Cleveland, so everything is new to me," Jani began. "I have heard from the other drivers that the temporary airport circuit here is quite physical and that it is quick and bumpy," he explained. "The Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team made good progress with our street circuit setup at Houston, where we qualified fourth, and we had a good test in at Road America, so I think we should have a good baseline setup for Cleveland and we can work to improve the car from there. I know this is an important part of the season. We have a lot of races during the next few weeks and it is important that we produce some good results," Jani concluded.

PKV Racing will be making its eighth and ninth starts while contesting its fifth race in Cleveland this weekend. The team has qualified in the top-10 four times in seven previous attempts with a best starting position of second by Cristiano da Matta in 2005. They have finished in the top-10 five times with a besting showing of third by Oriol Servia in 2006.

The Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by LaSalle Bank, Round #5 of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season, will be held June 22-24, on the temporary airport circuit at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio. The race will be televised live on CBS at 1:00 p.m. (ET).

PKV Racing In-season testing:

PKV Racing has conducted three tests in the last 48 days placing at least one car in the top-five at each test. At Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon, May 2-3, Jani posted the fourth fastest time with a lap of 58.17 seconds while Gommendy was seventh with a time of 58.66 seconds. Three weeks later at Mont-Tremblant in Canada, May 24-25, Gommendy posted the third quickest lap clocking a time of 76.74 seconds (Jani did not test). Earlier this week the team tested at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, June 18-19, with Jani turning the fifth fastest lap recording a time of 103.59 seconds. He was running a considerably quicker lap at the end of the second day when he put a wheel wrong in Turn #12. Gommendy was eighth after the first day of testing at RA with a time of 105.25, but did not run the second day after damaging the car on the final lap of the session.

-credit: pkv

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Oriol Servia , Sébastien Bourdais , Katherine Legge , Neel Jani , Cristiano da Matta