CHAMPCAR/CART: San Jose: PKV Racing Friday notes



SAN JOSE, CALIFORNAI -- Round #9 -- 2007 Champ Car World Series season -- PKV Racing's Tristan Gommendy provisionally qualified ninth while teammate Neel Jani qualified 17th today for Sunday's San Jose Grand Prix at Redback Raceway in San Jose, California.

Gommendy, in the #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car, posted a fast qualifying lap of 49.981 seconds (103.935 mph) on the tricky and challenging 1.5-mile, 7-turn downtown temporary street circuit. Jani, piloting the #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, came in at 50.631 seconds (102.601 mph)

Gommendy, who was cleared to drive by the Champ Car Medical Staff on Tuesday after sitting out last weekend's Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton due back problems sustain in a crash during provisional qualifying, struggled during this morning's practice logging the 16th fastest lap of the session (51.462 seconds, 100.944 mph). However, in the 15-minute afternoon practice/warm-up things began to turn around as Gommendy notched the eighth fastest lap clocking a time of 50.896 seconds (102.067 mph). In qualifying, Gommendy ran the usual two stints. He went out for his first run with 18:30 left in the 30-minutes session and ran eight laps turning his fastest qualifying lap on the seventh circuit, which initially put him fifth on the provisional grid. His second stint lasted seven laps, for a total of 15, but Gommendy could not improve on his earlier time and dropped to ninth.

"The Pay By Touch MegaSpirea team had a problem with the engine and then I messed up the tires this morning, so we really didn't know how fast we were," Gommendy said. "The team was mad about our performance this morning, but I told them that the car didn't feel that far off. In qualifying we had a good first stint, but on the second stint I got caught in some traffic. We do need to improve the car, but we are very close. I really think we have a top-five car. We just didn't get it done today."

Gommendy, who is a Champ Car rookie, but a veteran of European open wheel racing, has struggled a bit the last few weeks. Other than one bright spot, a pole at Mont-Tremblant, which was nullified when his car experienced an electrical problem and failed to start, Gommendy has DNF'd in two events before sitting out the Edmonton event due to the back injury. He has dropped from ninth in the championship, 13 points out of fifth, to 13th in the standings 28 points out of tenth. The 27-year-old Frenchman has finished in the top-10 twice in the seven races he has contested this year with a best showing of fifth in his Champ Car debut at Las Vegas. His other finishes, include a seventh in Portland, 12th in Mont-Tremblant after finally getting started, 11th at Long Beach, 13th at Houston and Cleveland plus a 15th place finish at Toronto. At both Long Beach and Houston, Gommendy engaged in spirited battles for the lead with three-time Series Champion Sebastien Bourdais before making late race stops for fuel. Gommendy, a resident of Paris, France has qualified in the top-10 four times in seven attempts this year with the one pole, just the second pole in PKV Racing history and first on a road course (made him just the third Champ Car rookie to capture a pole since 2001). In addition, Gommendy has qualified fifth in Portland, eighth in Houston and ninth in Long Beach (11th in Las Vegas, 12th at Cleveland and 14th in Toronto). Gommendy, who won the 2002 Formula 3 France

championship and the prestigious Formula 3 Macau GP race also in 2002, is sixth in laps led (31) and 14th in laps completed (427) and miles completed (891.671).

Jani also had problems in the morning session managing a quick time of only 52.080 seconds (99.747 mph), which put him 17th on the speed charts. In the warm-up it looked like he too had turned the corner when he recorded the ninth fastest lap (51.024 second, 101.811 mph), however he could not sustain the momentum in qualifying. Jani, who ran a total of 14 laps, during his two stints also turned his fast time on the seventh lap of his first run.

"It was a very bad day for the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team," Jani said. "This is the first time in my racing career I was last in both a practice and qualifying session on the same day. We have a lot of problems, so we are just going to have to fix them for final qualifying tomorrow."

Jani, who like his teammate, is a Champ Car rookie and a veteran of European open wheel racing, had a strong first half of the season. He finished in the top-10 six times in the first eight races with two podiums, a season high second in Toronto and third in Cleveland. The 23-year-old native of Jens, Switzerland, is seventh in the championship standings and third in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year race, with 129 points, and is just 14 points out of fifth place. Jani, who has been competitive in almost every race, has really come on in the last four events jumping from 12th in the standings, and 10 points out of 10th place prior, to seventh in the points and within striking distance of fifth. In addition to the two podium performances, Jani has finished sixth in Mont-Tremblant, seventh at Long Beach, ninth in Edmonton and 10th in Las Vegas. Fueling problems in Long Beach and a mechanical failure in Las Vegas prevented top-five finishes. Jani was also looking at a top-five showing in Houston, but was knocked from the competition while running fourth and eventually finished 15th. Only in Portland, where he finished 12th, but was running as high as eighth, has Jani not been in contention. Jani's qualifying record has been consistent. He started a season high fourth in Houston, was fifth in Edmonton, sixth in Mont-Tremblant, ninth in Las Vegas and Toronto plus 10th in Portland (11th in Cleveland and Long Beach). Jani is sixth in laps completed (623 of a possible 662) and miles completed (1270.692 out of 1345.694). A member of the Red Bull driver development program since 2005, Jani, whose father hails from India, was a test driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso in Formula One Team in 2006.

PKV Racing is making its fifth and sixth starts while contesting its third race in San Jose. The team has qualified in the top-10 twice in four previous attempts with a best starting position of fifth by Oriol Servia last year. They have finished in the top-10 twice with a best showing of eighth again by Servia in 2006 (Cristiano da Matta finished 10th at the inaugural event in 2005).

For the season PKV Racing drivers have qualified in the top-10 ten times in 15 attempts (#22 car did not qualify in Edmonton) with one pole, by Gommendy at Mont-Tremblant. They have finished in the top-10 eight times with the two podiums both by Jani.

This weekend's race is the first of the second half of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season and is the fifth of a grueling five races in a six week segment that has begun to define and separate the contenders from the rest of the field in the championship hunt.

There will be another practice session tomorrow morning at 10:15 a.m. followed by final qualifying at 2:00 p.m. The San Jose Grand Prix at Redback Raceway, July 27-29, Round #9 of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season, will be held on the temporary street circuit in downtown San Jose, California. The race will be televised live on ESPN2 at 6:00 p.m. (ET).

-credit: pkvracing

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