EXCITING GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON ENDS IN DISAPPONTMENT FOR PKV RACING HOUSTON, TEXAS -- SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2007 -- Round ...
EXCITING GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON ENDS IN DISAPPONTMENT FOR PKV RACING
HOUSTON, TEXAS -- SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2007 -- Round #3 -- 2007 Champ Car World Series season -- An exciting Grand Prix of Houston, which saw PKV Racing's Tristan Gommendy lead the race and battle three-time series champion Sebastien Bourdais and teammate Neel Jani contended for a podium finish, ended in disappointed today when Gommendy didn't get the yellow flag he needed and Jani was knocked out of the race.
For the second weekend in a row PKV Racing found Gommendy, who pilots the #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, in a position to lead the race and possibly win if they could get a minimal number of yellow flag laps. Unfortunately for Gommendy, who engage in a spirited and exciting battle with eventual winner Bourdais, the yellow flag never materialized and his race came to an end as he coasted down to the pit entry eight laps short of the finish. Gommendy finished in 13th place. Jani, in the #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car, who ran in the top-five for most of the race and was sitting in fourth place primed for a podium finish was hit and knocked out of the contest on lap XX by Katherine Legge dropping him to 15th in the boxscore.
Gommendy, who started a season high eighth, had to battle throughout the race. By lap three he had dropped to 11th, but quickly moved back into tenth place. When the second yellow flag came out on lap 28, Gommendy made a rookie mistake and came onto pit lane when the pits were still closed. The resulting penalty dropped him to 14th where he remained until lap 47 when the third yellow flag of the contest gave competitors in the back of the field the opportunity to go out of sequence from the leaders with their pit stops. Pitting on lap 49, Gommendy, who got outstanding work from his Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing crew, rejoined the race in 12th place. Three laps later another car pitted for fuel and two of the lead cars got together and had to pit for repairs putting Gommendy back in the top-10 at number nine. He was in seventh on lap 65 when the lead cars began to make their second round of stops. By the end of the round, Gommendy found himself in the lead needing approximately four yellow flag laps to make it to the end of the race, but with Bourdais right on his tail. What ensued was tremendous battle with Bourdais pressing in an effort to force Gommendy into mistake, but more importantly making him expend precious fuel. While Gommendy did hold off Bourdais, he did expend too much fuel and the yellow flag never came.
"I was hoping that today the Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing car would see the last lap, but unfortunately we came up a little short," he said. "The car was good and it was a fantastic experience to fight with Bourdais for the lead. I did my best to hold him off. I have to thank the whole PKV Racing Team. They did a fantastic job. When we arrived here the car was not so good and we worked hard every day and we arrived at the race with a great car. It is just a shame that things didn't go our way at the end of the race."
Gommendy, while a Champ Car rookie is a veteran of European open wheel racing having won the 2002 Formula 3 France championship and 2002 Formula 3 Macau GP. The 27-year-old native of Paris, France, who has limited experience in a Champ Car having tested with the team for the first time in March, is ninth in the championship race with 39 points and third in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year race. Gommendy has finished fifth, 11th and 13th in his first three Champ Car events and qualified in the top-10 twice, earning an 11th place starting spot in Las Vegas and a ninth place qualifying position in Long Beach to go with today's eighth place grid position.
Jani, who started a team season best fourth, was passed twice in the first 16 laps when his car began to push (understeer) on the red (alternate) tires. He remained in sixth until the first round of pit stops, on lap 29, when his Red Bull PKV Racing crew did a great job in the pits getting him out in fifth. Five laps later he was back in sixth where he stayed until lap 52 when Will Power and Justin Wilson tangled moving Jani into fourth place. He remained in fourth through his second pit stop and appeared to be set to challenge Oriol Servia for third, but soon after the stop he was hit by Legge and knocked out of the race.
"The Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing car was running good--in fourth place and at a good pace," Jani said. "I came in for my second pit stop, got back out and had done one lap when Katherine (Legge) tried to do a very enthusiastic move on me, which was impossible to fulfill from my point of view. I didn't even see her. She came out of nowhere and that was the end of my race," he explained. "It is a shame because the Red Bull PKV Racing Team worked very hard to prepare a very competitive car and I think we had a good chance at making the podium. Now we just will go testing and work on the car before we head to Portland, which is a type of track (permanent road course) that I am much more familiar with," Jani concluded.
Jani, a member of the Red Bull driver development program since 2005, was a test driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula One Team in 2006. He is currently 14th in the championship standings with 34 points and sixth in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year standings. Jani, whose father hails from India, has finished in the top-10 in two of his three 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 last weekend in Long Beach to go with today's 15th place finish. He has qualified in the top-10 twice in three attempts. In addition to today's fourth place starting spot he qualified ninth at Las Vegas and 11th in Long Beach.
PKV Racing made its third and fourth starts while contesting their second Grand Prix of Houston. The team has qualified in the top-10 three times in four attempts and finished in the top-10 once in their four starts with a best finish of 12th, by Servia last year.
PKV Racing will announce its testing schedule in the next few days. The next race is Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, June 8-10, at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon.