CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: PKV Racing Saturday report

PKV RACING QUALIFIES NINTH AND 11TH FOR TOMORROW'S TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA -- SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2007 -- Round ...

PKV RACING QUALIFIES NINTH AND 11TH FOR TOMORROW'S TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH

LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA -- SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2007 -- Round #2 -- 2007 Champ Car World Series season -- PKV Racing's rookie drivers, Tristan Gommendy and Neel Jani, will start ninth and 11th respectively in tomorrow's 33rd running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the challenging 1.968-mile, 11-turn downtown Long Beach temporary street circuit.

Gommendy in the #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone entry, posted a fast time of 68.527 seconds (103.387) in today's final qualifying and will start on the inside of Row #5. Jani, who drives the #21 Red Bull Gulfsteam PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car, qualified with a fast lap of 68.609 seconds (103.263 mph) placing him on the inside of Row #6.

Gommendy was seventh on the grid following yesterday's provisional qualifying with a quick time of 68.823 seconds (102.942 mph). In this morning's practice, the 27-year-old Frenchman, who has now been in a Champ Car for a week, had another solid session posting the ninth quickest lap with a time of 68.952 seconds (102.750 mph). In the 15-minute afternoon practice/warm-up, Gommendy continued to show improvement turning a lap of 68.586 seconds (103.298 mph), which put him sixth on the individual practice report and ninth on the combined report. Gommendy was scheduled to make two qualifying runs this afternoon. The first stint went as planned as the 2002 Formula 3 France series Champions and 2002 Formula 3 Macau GP winner, made eight circuits posting his quickest qualifying time on his seventh lap. His second stint did not go as well as three laps into the segment a red flag brought a halt to on-track action. Gommendy did get back out with just 1:40 remaining in the 30-minute session, running two laps, but could not improve on the earlier time.

"I made a mistake on my first set of tires in qualifying," Gommendy began. "The Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing car was really good on black (primary) tires in the practice before qualification. So, my engineer proposed to me a little change on the rear for the balance with red (alternate) tires. But, I said the car is good right now and I don't want to change it," he explained. "It was a mistake because on the red tires I had too much understeer (loose). Then with the second set of tires there was a lot of traffic and problems on the track (red flag) so, even though the balance was better, I only got a few laps and could not get the most out of the car," Gommendy said. "The potential of this car is a top-four or five car, but I need to learn and practice more to get there. Now it is the race and my goal is to stay on the track like at Las Vegas. I think the first lap of the race tomorrow will be the most important. I can't make a mistake," he concluded.

Jani, who began the day 16th following Friday's provisional qualifying with a time of 69.991 seconds (101.224 mph), improved his grid position by five spots in final qualifying. During today's morning practice the hard work and late hours the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Team put in last night began to pay off as Jani recorded the eighth fastest time running a quick lap of 68.681 seconds (103.155 mph). During the 15-minute afternoon practice, the 23 year-old native of Rorschach, Switzerland appeared ready to move into the top-five when he posted a fast lap of 68.559 seconds (103.339 mph) putting him fourth on the individual practice report and eighth on the combined report. However, in qualifying the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team could not capitalize on their practice success. Jani, who spent the 2006 season as a test driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula One Team, was also set to run two segments in final qualifying, but like his teammate was only able to get the first one in where he ran his fast lap on the fourth of seven circuits. His second stint was interrupted by the red flag negating any chance of picking up more ground.

Commenting on today's qualifying, Jani, who is also a veteran of European open wheel racing having competed in the Swiss Formula A Lista Junior Championship, where he won the championship, plus Formula Renault 2000, Formula Renault V6, GP2 and A1 GP Championships plus tested for the Swiss Formula One Sauber Petronas Team in 2003 and 2004 before becoming a member of the Red Bull driver development program in 2005 said, "Yesterday the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Team had a dreadful day. Today after the final practice I had a very good lap time on old tires, so I thought, cool in qualifying we can at last get back to where we are used to being--in the top-five at least. Now, suddenly it didn't work again and we can't figure out why. The car was handling strange over the bumps. So, we are just going to have to go and rethink about what we are doing and make it better for tomorrow."

PKV Racing will be contesting their fifth Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The team will be making its ninth and tenth starts. PKV Racing drivers have now qualified in the top-10 four times in ten attempts and finished in the top-10 three times in four races with a best showing of eighth by Katherine Legge last year.

-credit: pkv

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Series INDYCAR