PKV RACING SEEKS STRONG PERFORMANCE AT STEELBACK GRAND PRIX OF TORONTO
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - - JULY 4, 2007 - - PKV Racing drivers Neel Jani and Tristan Gommendy will both be seeking strong performances in an attempt to move up in the championship standings this weekend at the Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto, July 6-8, on the temporary street circuit at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
This weekend's race is the second of three straight in Canada that comprise the Canadian Triple Crown. It also marks the halfway point of both the 2007 Champ Car World Series season and a grueling five race in six week segment that is perhaps the most important on the calendar and could well determine whether PKV Racing can contend for a top spot in the season ending standings.
Jani, a Champ Car rookie, who pilots the #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, is currently ninth in the championship standings and fourth in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year race, with 88 points. He is just nine points out of sixth place. The 23-year-old native of Jens, Switzerland is coming off a hard fought sixth place finish last weekend in Mont-Tremblant, his second top-10 showing in as many races, which includes the first podium of the year for PKV Racing, a third place showing, in Cleveland. Jani, whose father hails from India, has been competitive in almost every race this year. He has finished in the top-10 four times in his first six Champ Car races placing seventh at Long Beach despite a fueling problem and 10th at the season opener in Las Vegas, where he was the victim of a mechanical problem, to go with the sixth at Mont-Tremblant and third in Cleveland. In the other two races, the determined veteran of European open wheel racing was looking at a podium finish in Houston, but was knocked from the competition while running fourth and placed 15th. Then in Portland, Jani ran as high as eighth, but was hampered by fuel mileage problems and ended up 12th. Jani has qualified in the top-10 four times in six tires this year. He started fourth at Houston, sixth at Mont-Tremblant, ninth in Las Vegas and 10th in Portland (11th in Cleveland and in Long Beach). He is sixth in both laps completed (454 out of a possible 493) and miles completed (953.169 out of a possible 1028.171). A member of the Red Bull driver development program since 2005, Jani was the test driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso in Formula One Team in 2006.
"From talking with the other drivers, Toronto is a good track to race," Jani said. "It has a combination of fast and slow corners, which means that getting the setup right is the most important thing. The Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team has improved the setup of the car on the street circuits since the beginning of the season. We are not where we want to be, but we are close. I think the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team can have a good race this weekend in Toronto and put up the kind of result we know we are capable of having."
Gommendy, who like his teammate is a Champ Car rookie, scored just the second pole in PKV Racing's four plus year history, and it's first on a road course, last week in Mont-Tremblant. Unfortunately, he had his starting position nullified when the #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV
Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car experienced an electrical problem and failed to start. Gommendy eventually joined the race, albeit two laps down, but persevered and managed to finish 12th collecting valuable points. As a result of his efforts in Mont-Tremblant, Gommendy, who is fifth in the rookie race, jumped one place in the championship standings, but is actually tied for 10th with Paul Tracy both with 74 points (he sits 11th in the championship race because Tracy owns the tiebreaker by virtue of his victory in Cleveland). Gommendy, 27, has finished in the top-10 twice in six races this year placing a season high fifth in his debut at Las Vegas and seventh in Portland, where late-race traffic thwarted another top-five finish. In the other four events the personable Frenchman has the 12th at Mont-Tremblant, an 11th at Long Beach and 13th place showings at both Houston and Cleveland. At both Long Beach and Houston, Gommendy showed his considerable talent by engaging in spirited battles for the lead with three-time Series Champion Sebastien Bourdais before making late race stops for a fuel. Gommendy, who is just the third Champ Car rookie since 2001 to capture a pole (Bruno Junqueira, Nazareth -- 2001; Dan Clarke, Elkhart Lake -- 2006 and Will Power, Australia -- 2006), has qualified in the top-10 four times in six attempts this year. In addition to the pole in Mont-Tremblant, the resident of Paris, France has qualified fifth in Portland, where he was the fastest in the rain on Saturday, but lost a front row spot when he caused a red flag; eighth in Houston and ninth in Long Beach, (started 11th in Las Vegas and 12th at Cleveland). Gommendy, also a veteran of European open wheel racing having won the 2002 Formula 3 France championship and 2002 Formula 3 Macau GP, is fifth in laps led (31), eighth in miles completed (891.671) and ninth in laps completed (427).
Commenting on the race in Mont-Tremblant and the upcoming event in Toronto, Gommendy said,
"The Pay By Touch MegaSpirea team had a strange weekend in Mont Tremblant. It was very exciting to be the just the second PKV driver to win a pole and the first to do it on a road course. It was good for the team because it showed that we have improved the car and that the hard work is giving results. Unfortunately, in the race, it was not meant to be. Now that we have won a pole we know we have a chance to do it every weekend. We just have to keep working hard. Keep improving the car and we can challenge for the pole and then go for the win in Toronto."
PKV Racing will be making its eighth and ninth starts while contesting its fifth race in Toronto this weekend. The team has qualified in the top-10 three times in seven attempts with a best starting position of fifth by Oriol Servia last year. They have finished in the top-10 twice in their previous seven starts with a besting showing of second by Jimmy Vasser in 2004 (Vasser was fourth in 2005).
The Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto, Round #7 of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season, will be held July 6-8, on the temporary street circuit at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The race will be televised live on ESPN at 1:00 p.m. (ET).
Gommendy's Pole Position at Mont-Tremblant:
Gommendy's pole at Mont-Tremblant, was the second in PKV Racing history, and the first on a road course. Team co-owner and former driver Jimmy Vasser recorded the first pole on June 3, 2005 on the Milwaukee Mile oval. It is also the first time a PKV Racing entry has earned a front row starting spot since Cristiano da Matta qualified second at Cleveland on June 25th, 2005. The first and sixth place starting positions by Gommendy and Jani are the second best combined qualifying effort by a pair of PKV Racing drivers and the best on a road course. The best combined qualifying effort was recorded by Vasser, pole, and da Matta, fourth, at Milwaukee in 2005.