CHAMPCAR/CART: San Jose: PKV Racing race report



SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA -- SUNDAY, JULY 29, 2007 -- Round #9 -- 2007 Champ Car World Series season -- Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing driver Neel Jani finished second today in the San Jose Grand Prix at Redback Raceway on the tricky and challenging 1.5-mile, 7-turn downtown temporary street circuit. Teammate Tristan Gommendy placed eighth.

Jani, in the #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, drove a strong race and led a total of 30 laps, his first in a Champ Car, before dropping to second on lap 95 of the 107 lap contest. The second place showing tied his career best finish, a second in Toronto, and was his third podium performance in the last five races. 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 to back problems sustained in a crash during provisional qualifying, behind the wheel of the #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car, had a very determined performance hindered by a penalty in the later stages of the races, but never-the-less earned his third top-10 finish of the season. This is the best combined performance by the two PKV Racing rookies this season and the second time this year that both drivers have finished in the top-10 (Gommendy place 5th and Jani seventh in their Champ Car debuts at the season opening Grand Prix of Las Vegas).

Jani, who started fifth, moved into fourth place after front row starter Sebastien Bourdais experienced a problem on the opening laps. He picked up two more spots on lap four when Justin Wilson and Dan Clarke collided and ran in second until lap 34 when took the lead of a Champ Car race for the first time by overtaking Oriol Servia. Jani led the next six laps, but dropped out of the lead when he pitted for the first time on lap 41. By the time the first round of stops was completed he was back in second behind Robert Doornbos, who had pitted out of sequence. Jani retook the lead when Doornbos pitted on lap 55 and held it for the next ten laps when he engaged in a spirited battle with Servia in which Servia passed Jani, Jani immediately repast, only to be passed again by Servia one lap later. However following the second round of stops, Jani was back in second now behind Doornbos, who decided to pit in sequence and because he took on less fuel got out ahead. Hoewever, Jani reclaimed the lead on lap 84 when he passed Doornbos on a restart. Jani led the next 11 laps when Doornbos, using the last of his "push to pass" time retook the lead from Jani, who was struggling a bit with the alternate "red" tire. With his car not at 100%, Jani needed all his considerable skill to defend second place, but did not have enough to chase down Doornbos.

"It was an up and down race for the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team," Jani said. "I really hoped to win, but on the last stint we were on red tires and the other guys were on blacks and it looks like that decided the race. I just had to much understeer and could not hold off Doornbos," he explained. "The Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team did a great job all weekend. We went from last on Friday, to fifth on Saturday and second on Sunday. The crew did a great job in the pits today. We finished on the podium, got some more points, but sure in the end you want to win.

Jani has now finished in the top-10 in seven of the nine races contested this season with three podiums, a third in Cleveland to go with the seconds here in San Jose and in Toronto. As a result of today's efforts, the 23-year-old native of Jens, Switzerland jumped two places in the championship standing to fifth with 156 points, just nine points out of fourth. He also moved into second, picking up one place, in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year race.

Gommendy, started eighth, dropped to 10th on the opening lap, but moved back into eighth following the Wilson-Clarke incident. He remained in eighth through the first round of pit stops and then bounced between eighth and ninth until the second round of stops. At that point the Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing team experienced a radio problem which prevented them from telling Gommendy when to pit. After he eventually did, but when he rejoined the contest he passed the pace car thus incurring a penalty which dropped him back to tenth. Despite driving with a sore back, from the injury sustained in Edmonton, the talented Frenchmen drove with determination and fought his way back to eight where he finished.

Commenting on his race Gommendy said, "The Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing team had problems with the radio. So for a long time I was without communications with the pits and didn't stop when the pits were opened. I think at the beginning of the race I did a good job because I was on pace with (Will) Power and Sebastien (Bourdais) and we were managing the fuel. Towards the end of the race I started to push and overtook three cars. The car was quite good today and the crew did a great job in the pits, but it was very difficult to overtake."

Gommendy has now finished in the top-10 three times in eight races with a best showing of fifth in his Champ Car debut at Las Vegas. The 27-year-old a resident of Paris, France picked up one place in the championship race and currently sits 12th in the standings with 95 points. He is fifth in the rookie of the year race.

Jani is on a tremendous streak that has seen him pick up seven places in the standings in the last five races. In addition to the three podium performances, Jani's finished sixth in Mont-Tremblant and ninth in Edmonton. His other top-10 showings are a seventh at Long Beach and a 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 has qualified in the top-10 seven times in nine attempts, with a season best starting position of fourth in Houston. In addition to the fourth place starting position, Jani has qualified fifth in Edmonton and here in San Jose, sixth in Mont-Tremblant, ninth in Las Vegas and Toronto plus 10th in Portland (11th in Cleveland and Long Beach). Jani, whose father hails from India, is a veteran of European open wheel racing. He has been a member of the Red Bull driver development program since 2005 and was a test driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso in Formula One Team in 2006.

Today's eight place finish is something of a bright spot for Gommendy, who has struggled in the last few weeks. Other than 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 addition to the fifth place showing in Vegas he placed 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.

In addition to eight place starting spot, Gommendy has qualified in the top-10 five times in eight attempts (did not qualify in Edmonton due to injury) this year with the one pole. In addition to the pole at Mont-Tremblant, 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), Jani has qualified fifth in Portland, eighth in Houston, eighth here in San Jose 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).

PKV Racing made fifth and sixth starts while contesting its third race in San Jose. The team has now qualified in the top-10 four times in six attempts with a best starting position of fifth by Oriol Servia last year and Jani today. They have finished in the top-10 four times with Jani's second place finish today taking team honors.

For the season PKV Racing drivers have now qualified in the top-10 a total of 12 times in 17 attempts (#22 car did not qualify in Edmonton) with one pole, by Gommendy at Mont-Tremblant. They have finished in the top-10 ten times with the three podiums all by Jani.

The San Jose Grand Prix was the first race 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 defined the contenders in the championship hunt.

Next up for PKV Racing is the Generac Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America, August 10-12, on the Road America permanent road circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The Generac Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America, Round #10 of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season, will be televised live on ABC at 3:00 p.m. (ET).

-credit: pkv racing

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Oriol Servia , Sébastien Bourdais , Robert Doornbos , Tristan Gommendy , Daniel Clarke
Teams Toro Rosso