PKV RACING'S NEEL JANI PROVISIONALLY QUALIFIES FIFTH FOR THE GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND CLEVELAND, OHIO -- FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2007 -- Round ...
PKV RACING'S NEEL JANI PROVISIONALLY QUALIFIES FIFTH FOR THE GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND
CLEVELAND, OHIO -- FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2007 -- Round #5 -- 2007 Champ Car World Series season -- PKV Racing's Neel Jani kicked off the most grueling portion of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season, five races in six weeks, by provisionally qualifying fifth for Sunday's Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by LaSalle Bank in Cleveland, Ohio. Teammate Tristan Gommendy is 13th on the provisional grid.
Jani, who pilots the #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, qualified with a quick lap of 57.535 seconds (131.774 mph) on the tricky and challenging 2.106-mile, 10-turn Burke Lakefront Airport temporary circuit. Gommendy, behind the wheel of the #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car, recorded a fast lap of 57.978 seconds (130.767 mph)
Jani started the day getting used to the tough Cleveland circuit which, due to it location on an airport runway, has no reference points making it difficult for rookies who are unfamiliar with the track to keep their bearings. He turned the second most laps, 27, of any driver during the first practice, which was held at 12:15 p.m., and posted the sixth fastest time (58.402 seconds, 129.817 mph). In the 15-minute pre-qualifying practice/warm-up, Jani moved up to second on the speed charts with a lap of 58.154 seconds (130.371 mph), which put him third on the combined practice report. For qualifying, Jani ran the usual two stints going out for the first time with 21 minutes remaining in the 30 minute session. Running on the primary (black) tire, he notched his fastest qualifying time on the seventh and final lap of the first stint. The quick time lap initially put him second on the grid, however when he returned to the track for his second stint, again on the primary tire, he had fallen to fifth. Jani ran eight more laps during the second stint, but was unable to improve on his earlier time.
"This was the second best qualifying effort for the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team," Jani noted. "So, it was an okay start to the weekend, but we should have been on the front row today. We had a good first stint, but we should have got more out of the second set of tires," he explained. "The car doesn't feel bad. We just have to put a fine edge on it and it will be there. Let's see what happens tomorrow," Jani said.
Commenting on the difficult Burke Lakefront temporary airport circuit Jani said, "This is a good track. It is not as bumpy as I was told. The biggest thing is it is difficult to see where you are because it is so wide open."
Jani has shown on numerous occasions that he has the potential to qualify and finish at the top of the field. 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 frustrating. Most of the time the speed has been there, but circumstances have prevented him from maximizing his results. Jani, whose father hails from India, has qualified in the top-10 in three of the first four races this year. He started a team/season high fourth at Houston, was ninth in his debut at Las Vegas and 10th in Portland (11th in Long Beach) and has finished in the top-10 twice placing 10th at the season opener in Las Vegas, where a mechanical problem prevented a better showing, and seventh in Long Beach where he was hindered by a fueling problem. In Houston, after qualifying fourth he was running in fourth when Katherine Legge knocked him out of the contest placing him 15th. Then at Portland, Jani took advantage of Champ Car new standing start procedure to move into eighth place before the first turn, but could not achieve the fuel mileage other drivers were getting forcing him to pit early and lose track position. He finished 12th. Jani 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. 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, Jani is 10th in laps completed (303) and ninth in miles completed (603.233).
Gommendy, who suffered a bruised knee in a testing incident at Road America earlier this week, ran only 16 laps in the morning practice as the team waited for the dirt and dust to be cleared from the track by other cars. He ended up 14th on the practice report posting a fast time of 59.381 seconds (127.677 mph). In the 15-minute warm-up, Gommendy was sixth on the speed charts with a time of 58.472 seconds (129.662 mph), putting him tenth on the combined practice report. During qualifying, Gommendy also ran two stints. He went on track for the first segment with just over 20 minutes remaining in the session on primary tires. Running eight laps he posted a fast time of 58.053 seconds (130.508 mph), which put him ninth on the grid. Returning to action with nine minutes to go, Gommendy, again on primary tires, ran seven more laps posting his fast time on the fifth lap of the stint and 13th overall.
"The Pay By Touch MegaSpirea team just needs to continue to work and I am sure we will improve our starting position," Gommendy said. "I had a problem with the traffic on the first set of tires, but we were fast on old tires, so that is going to be good for the race. I didn't have any problems with the track. After the first couple of laps I just started using the cones as markers and that helped. Tomorrow is going to be very important. We have to do better in final qualifying."
Like his teammate, Gommendy clearly has the ability to stand on the podium. The talented and personable Frenchman 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). He has finished in the top-10 twice placing a season high fifth in Las Vegas and seventh 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. 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, who is a veteran of European open wheel racing having won the 2002 Formula 3 France championship and 2002 Formula 3 Macau GP, is fourth in laps led, with 31, fifth in laps completed, with 333, and fifth in miles completed 662.807.
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.