PKV RACING QUALIFIES BOTH CARS IN TOP-10 FOR SECOND TIME IN 2007 GOMMENDY EARNS SEASON HIGH FIFTH PLACE STARTING POSITION, JANI TO START 10TH PORTLAND, OREGON -- SATURDAY, JUNE 9, 2007 -- Round ...
PKV RACING QUALIFIES BOTH CARS IN TOP-10 FOR SECOND TIME IN 2007
GOMMENDY EARNS SEASON HIGH FIFTH PLACE STARTING POSITION, JANI TO START 10TH
PORTLAND, OREGON -- SATURDAY, JUNE 9, 2007 -- Round #4 -- 2007 Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing qualified both drivers in the top-10 for the second time this season as Tristan Gommendy earned a season high fifth place starting position while teammate Neel Jani claimed the 10th spot for tomorrow's Mazda Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Joe's Sports and Outdoor at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon.
On a day that featured continuous rain no driver was able to improve his time over yesterday's provisional qualifying. However, today's final qualifying was highlighted by a strong effort by Gommendy, who had the #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing machine at the top of the speed charts with just six minutes remaining in the session, which, despite a slower time would have insured him a spot on the front row under Champ Car's qualifying rules. Unfortunately, the talented and personable Frenchman spun on the next lap which brought out a red flag and resulted in the loss of his fast lap of the day. Gommendy, who started and ended the day fifth on the grid based on yesterday's provisional qualifying time of 58.399 seconds (121.071 mph), gave notice that he would be a force to be reckoned with during morning practice when he posted the fourth fastest time of the session, which was also run in the rain, turning a lap of 71.619 seconds (98.722 mph). His fast lap in today's qualifying, which was nullified by the red flag, came in at 71.582 seconds. In addition to earning his best starting spot of the season, Gommendy also scored the best starting position in PKV Racing's four plus year history on the challenging 1.964-mile, 12-turn PIR permanent road course.
"It is a shame and I am very disappointed," Gommendy said. "The Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing team prepared a very good car for the rain. We had the fastest time and then I spun off and the car stalled. We thought I was in a safe place, but the red flag came out and that took away my fast lap. Fortunately, we are still starting fifth tomorrow so I am confident we can have a good race."
Gommendy, a Champ Car rookie who entered the season with just one day of testing, continues to show improvement every time he takes to the track. He has now qualified in the top-10 three times in his first four races starting ninth in Long Beach and eighth in Houston to go with today's fifth place qualifying spot (started 11th in his Champ Car debut in Las Vegas). In the first three races of the season, the 27-year-old resident of Paris, France finished fifth at Las Vegas, 11th in Long Beach and 13th in Houston. At both Long Beach and Houston, he engaged 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, while a Champ Car rookie is a veteran of European open wheel racing having won the 2002 Formula 3 France championship and 2002 Formula 3 Macau GP. He is ninth in the championship race with 39 points, 14 points out of fifth place, and third in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year race. Gommendy is third in laps led, with 31, fifth in laps completed, with 231, and miles completed 462.479 also leaves him in fifth place.
Jani, in the #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, qualified 10th based on yesterday's quick lap of 58.805 seconds (120.235 mph). For the second day in a row the 23-year-old from Switzerland began the day with a strong morning practice recording the third fastest time in the rain with a quick lap of 71.398 seconds (99.028 mph). However, in both the 15-minute pre-qualifying practice/warm-up and final qualifying the team could not capitalize on the morning's momentum as Jani ran only the eighth fastest lap in today's qualifying posting a time of 72.414 seconds.
"Today was the same as yesterday except for the rain," Jani noted. "The Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing car was good in the morning, but we didn't improve in the afternoon. With all the rain it was obviously going to be slower, but I thought we had a chance for the top spot in final qualifying, which would have put us on the front row. We tried something with the setup in the afternoon that we thought would help and it didn't quite work out," he explained. "We are not where we want to be and not where we expect to be on the starting grid, so we are going to have to do our best tomorrow and see what happens in the race," Jani concluded.
Jani, who like his teammate is a rookie, appears ready to have a breakout performance this weekend in Portland following a strong effort in Houston, where he qualified a team season high fourth and was running fourth when he was knocked out of the contest, and a solid test at PIR in early May when he was also fourth. Jani has now qualified in the top-10 in three of the first four races. He started ninth in his debut Las Vegas, 11th in Long Beach, fourth in Houston to go with today's 10th place starting spot. Jani, a member of the Red Bull driver development program since 2005 and a test driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula One Team in 2006, is currently 14th in the championship standings with 34 points and sixth in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year standings. He is just four points out of 10th place and 19 out of fifth. Jani, whose father hails from India, has finished in the top-10 in two of his three starts this year placing 10th at the season opener in Las Vegas, where a mechanical problem in the later stages of the race prevented a better showing, seventh in Long Beach where a solid pit strategy worked, but he was hindered by a fueling problem and 16th in Houston following the incident with Katherine Legge. He is tied for ninth in laps completed with 201 and is ninth in miles completed with 402.906.
PKV Racing will be making their eighth and ninth starts while contesting their fifth race in Portland tomorrow. PKV Racing drivers now have qualified in the top-10 five times in nine attempts with Gommendy's fifth place starting position surpassing the team's previous best qualifying spot of eighth established by Jimmy Vasser in 2005. The team has finished in the top-10 five times with one win by Cristiano da Matta also in 2005.