NEEL JANI PUTS RED BULL GULFSTREAM PKV RACING CAR ON PODIUM AT GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND CRASH ENDS STRONG PERFORMANCE BY GOMMENDY Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing driver Neel Jani benefited from an outstanding strategy, but also drove a strong and...
NEEL JANI PUTS RED BULL GULFSTREAM PKV RACING CAR ON PODIUM AT GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND
CRASH ENDS STRONG PERFORMANCE BY GOMMENDY
Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing driver Neel Jani benefited from an outstanding strategy, but also drove a strong and determined race to score the team's first podium of the season today placing third at the Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by LaSalle Bank in Cleveland, Ohio. Teammate Tristan Gommendy had a solid performance nullified by an incident on lap 34 placing him 13th.
Jani, in the #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car, started 11th, but for the second time since the Champ Car World Series has instituted the new standing start procedure got off to a good start. Picking up one place on the opening lap he gained another two after a crash involving eventual winner Paul Tracy and rookie Graham Rahal. Jani was running in eighth place when he pitted for the first time on lap 28. Ten laps later, with Jani in ninth, the team began to work the yellow's pitting him twice in the space of two laps for additional fuel. The move proved to be the correct one when, as the leaders began pitting on lap 55, Jani was able to stay out immediately moving him into fifth place and up to fourth by lap 64. Pitting for the final time on lap 66 Jani came back out in eighth. One lap later a yellow flag flew allowing the final phase of the race strategy to unfold with Jani eventually moving into third place. Driving with determination and skill during the final stages of the race, Jani held off veteran driver, Justin Wilson, to earn his first Champ Car podium.
"The Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team did a great job," Jani began. "The car was good and we had a great strategy. I got a good start to the race, then I had a problem and went off into the grass, but we were able to recover and finally make the podium."
Jani went on to say, "I really feel good for the team. The crew has worked very hard and we have had some tough races. In both Las Vegas and Houston we were fighting with the leaders, but ended up having some problems that kept us off the podium. This was also a good end to a difficult weekend. We were up front, then in the back and finally finished up front."
Jani, a Champ Car rookie, has now finished in the top-10 three times in the first five races contest this season. In addition to today season high third, he was 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. In Houston, after qualifying fourth he was running in fourth when he was knocked from the competition and placed 15th. Then two weeks ago in Portland, when Champ Car first used the new standing start, he got a strong start and was running eighth, but fuel mileage problems forced him to pit early and he ended up 12th. Today's result moves Jani up three notches in the standings. He currently sits ninth in the points with 69 and is fourth in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year standings. The talented and determined 23-year-old has qualified in the top-10 in three of the five races this year starting a team/season high fourth at Houston, ninth in his debut at Las Vegas and 10th in Portland (11th here in Cleveland and in Long Beach). A native of Jens, Switzerland, whose father hails from India, Jani has been a member of the Red Bull driver development program since 2005 and was the test driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso in Formula One Team in 2006.
Gommendy, who pilots the #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, started a season low 12th. Driving with a bruised knee, suffered in a testing incident earlier this week at Road America, Gommendy was having a solid race running as high as sixth, when an off-track excursion on lap 34 of the 89 lap contest resulted in a crash that ended his day.
"The Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing car was a little difficult to control at the beginning of a stint on sticker (new) tires," Gommendy said. "Because of that I had a problem at the entry of the chicane and when I came back on track I crashed with Jan Heylen. Fortunately, no one was hurt and my knee is fine," he said. "I just feel bad for the team because they worked so hard this weekend. We are just going to have to go out and do better next weekend," Gommendy concluded.
Gommendy has finished in the top-10 twice in the five races this year placing a season high fifth in Las Vegas and seventh in Portland, where late race traffic thwarted a top-five finish. In addition to today's 13th place showing the talented 27-year-old Frenchman has also finished 11th at Long Beach and 13th at Houston, but in both those 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 is 12th in the championship race with 64 points and fifth in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year race. The personable native of Paris, France has earned three top-10 starting spots already this season; 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 to go with today 12th place starting position). Gommendy is a veteran of European open wheel racing having won the 2002 Formula 3 France championship and 2002 Formula 3 Macau GP.
PKV Racing made its eighth and ninth starts while contesting its fifth race in Cleveland today. The team has now qualified in the top-10 four times in nine attempts with a best starting position of second by Cristiano da Matta in 2005. They have finished in the top-10 six times in nine starts with Jani third place showing today tying for team high with Oriol Servia in 2006.
Next up for PKV Racing is the second of five races in six weeks the inaugural Grand Prix of Mont-Tremblant, June 29 -- July 1, at Circuit Mont-Tremblant in St. Jovite, Quebec, Canada. The Grand Prix of Mont-Tremblant, Round #6 of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season, will be televised live on ESPN at 2:00 p.m. (ET).