PKV RACING STARTS 2007 CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES SEASON STRONG ROOKIE TRISTAN GOMMENDY FINISHES FIFTH TEAM PLACES BOTH CARS IN TOP-10 LAS VEGAS, NEVADA -- SUNDAY, APRIL 8, 2007 -- Round ...
PKV RACING STARTS 2007 CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES SEASON STRONG
ROOKIE TRISTAN GOMMENDY FINISHES FIFTH
TEAM PLACES BOTH CARS IN TOP-10
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA -- SUNDAY, APRIL 8, 2007 -- Round #1 -- 2007 Champ Car World Series season -- PKV Racing opened the 2007 Champ Car World Series with a strong performance placing both cars in the top-10 today at the inaugural Vegas Grand Prix on the new 2.440-mile, 12-turn downtown temporary street circuit in Las Vegas, Nevada. .
Rookies Tristan Gommendy in the #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone entry finished fifth, while teammate Neel Jani, who was behind the wheel of the #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car was also looking at a top-five finish when a mechanic problem knocked him out of the race. Jani placed 10th.
Gommendy, who was driving a Champ Car for just the fifth day qualified 11th. He dropped two places during the opening two laps, but then settled in and slowing started working his way back. He was running in 11th place when the Pay By Touch MegaSpirea team made a strategy move and took advantage of a yellow flag pitting for the first of their three stops, and the first competitive stop of Gommendy's Champ Car career, on lap 15 along with most of the field expect the leaders. After getting a strong stop from his crew, Gommendy rejoined the competition in 12th place. He then proceed to pass a couple of cars, pick up a few spots due to attrition and after the leaders made their first stops, Gommendy found himself sitting in third place. Gommendy was running in third when he stopped for the second time on lap 39. He came back on track in seventh place, moved into the top five when two other cars made their second stop and was in third again as late as lap 56. Unfortunately, there were no yellow flags during the second half of the race, which was an one hour and 45 minute time event (68 total laps) and Gommendy was forced to pit a final time, on lap 63, for a splash of fuel dropping him back to fifth.
"First of all it was a very, very long race," Gommendy said. "An hour and 45 minutes is incredibly long. The length of the race is new for me, the refueling is new. But, I knew from the beginning the main thing was to stay on the track. Jimmy (Vasser) told me before the race that if I finished the race I would place in the top-five and he was right."
Commenting further on his day Gommendy said, "This was a fantastic day for me. Champ Car is fantastic, my engineer and crew are fantastic and it was fantastic to finish in the top-five in my first Champ Car race. It is a dream for me to be here. I am really happy for everybody, the team, the sponsors, Pay By Touch and MegaSpirea, and I just want to thank Mr. Kalkhoven for giving me this opportunity."
Jani, who was also making his first Champ Car start, qualified ninth. He dropped one spot at the start of the race, but also quickly settled in and began to move up the grid. Jani was running in seventh place following an outstanding two-car pass on lap 13 and was running in sixth when much of the field elected to pit under an early yellow. He briefly moved into fifth place, but was running in sixth when he pitted for the first time on lap 25. Jani came back on track in ninth place and through a combination of pit stops, crashes and passes moved into second place on lap 43. The Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Team pitted for the second time on lap 45 with Jani rejoining in eighth place, but primed to quickly move into the top-five. However, on lap 56, while running in seventh position he experienced a mechanical failure that put an end to his day.
"The Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing car was handling good," Jani said. "All the problems we experienced in qualifying were gone. It was a good race car. I think it was a podium car. We were just unlucky. I had some sort of mechanical problem. We are not 100% sure what it is yet, but the crew is going to take the car apart and we will figure it out. In the end it was a fight which could have ended good for us except for some bad luck.'