CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: PKV Racing Saturday report



Round #5 -- 2007 Champ Car World Series season -- PKV Racing drivers Neel Jani and Tristan Gommendy qualified 11th and 12th respectively for tomorrow's Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by LaSalle Bank in Cleveland, Ohio.

Jani, #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, qualified with a quick lap of 57.400 seconds (132.084 mph) on the unusually challenging 2.106-mile, 10-turn Burke Lakefront Airport temporary circuit and will start on the inside of Row #6. Gommendy, in the #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car, recorded a fast lap of 57.516 seconds (131.817 mph) and will lineup next to his teammate on the outside of the sixth row.

Jani started the day fifth on the grid following yesterday's provisional qualifying with a quick lap of 57.535 seconds (131.774 mph). He struggled somewhat in morning practice recording a fast time of 58.046 seconds (130.614 mph) placing him 14th on both the individual and combined practice report as the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team experimented with some setup changes in search for more speed. In the 15-minute pre-qualifying practice/warm-up, Jani turned a quick time of 58.643 and got out of the car after only five laps sitting in third position and with the team satisfied that they had a competitive car. However, in final qualifying after a solid first run, in which he posted what would be his fast time on the sixth and final lap of the segment, he had his second segment interrupted by a red flag at a crucial time. The result was that Jani was unable to improve on his earlier time and wound up dropping five spots to 11th on the grid.

"The Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team did its fast lap during the first stint on an old set of Bridgestone tires," Jani said. "On old tires the car was quite good. For the second stint we had a new set of tires, so we had to do a longer run because the tires were coming in late. Unfortunately, just as the tires were coming up to temperature the red flag came out," he explained. "The Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing car is better than where we qualified. It is really quick on old tires, so that will be good in the race. Today, we just got done in by a red flag."

Jani, a Champ Car rookie, has now qualified in the top-10 in three of the first five 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 here in Cleveland and in Long Beach). Jani has finished in the top-10 twice in the four races contest this season placing 10th at the season opener in Las Vegas, where he was the victim of a mechanical problem, and seventh in Long Beach where he experienced a fueling 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, after running as high eighth, Jani had fuel mileage problems and ended up finishing 12th. The determined 23-year-old native of Jens, Switzerland, is currently 12th in the championship standings with 43 points, just 10 points out of 10th place. He is sixth in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year standings, 10th in laps completed (303) and ninth in miles completed (603.233). Jani, whose father hails from India, 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 was 13th after provisional qualifying with a time of 57.978 seconds (130.767 mph), improved his time in every session today. He was 13th fastest in morning practice with a time of 57.833 seconds (131.095 mph). In the afternoon warm-up he posted a fast time of 57.757 placing him seventh on the speed chart. His fast qualifying lap came during his first stint, lap seven of seven, as he was also caught out by the red flag while pushing for a faster time.

"The Pay By Touch MegaSpirea team got stuck behind some traffic on our first stint and we lost about .3 of a second on our fast lap, but we still did our fast lap during the first run," Gommendy said. "The second stint we went with more fuel, but got caught by the red flag. I think we are .3 or .4 faster, but I also think it is the same for 10 other drivers. The good thing is the car is very good on old tires, so I am confident we can have a good race tomorrow."

Gommendy, who suffered a bruised knee in a testing incident at Road America earlier this week, is, like his teammate, a rookie who clearly has the ability to stand on the podium. While today's 12th place qualifying effort is his lowest in five attempts, the talented and personable Frenchman had his 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). Gommendy has finished in the top-10 twice this year 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 tomorrow. 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 five times in their previous seven starts with a besting showing of third by Oriol Servia in 2006.

The Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by LaSalle Bank, Round #5 of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season, will be held on Sunday, June 24, on the temporary airport circuit at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio. The race will be televised live on CBS at 1:00 p.m. (ET).

-credit: pkvracing

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Oriol Servia , Sébastien Bourdais , Neel Jani , Tristan Gommendy , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Toro Rosso