SPIN COSTS GOMMENDY TOP-SIX SPOT TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA -- Round ...
SPIN COSTS GOMMENDY TOP-SIX SPOT
TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA -- Round #7 -- 2007 Champ Car World Series season -- PKV Racing's Tristan Gommendy provisionally qualified 11th while teammate Neel Jani qualified 15th today for Sunday's Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Gommendy, in the #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car, spun during his first stint bringing out a red flag. Therefore, under Champ Car's qualifying rules he was forced to forfeit his fast lap during the session. That lap, which occurred during his second stint, came in at 59.3 seconds and would have put him sixth on the grid. His next fastest time was 59.624 seconds (105.964 mph). Jani, behind the wheel of the #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, posted a fast qualifying lap of 60.123 seconds (105.085 mph).
Gommendy, who captured just the second pole in PKV Racing history, and first on a road course, last weekend in Mont-Tremblant, spend most of the morning practice learning the challenging and fast 1.755-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place temporary street circuit. He ran 23 laps during the morning session, second most of any driver, posting a quick time of 61.796 seconds (102.240 mph), which put him 15th on the speed charts. Gommendy continued to familiarize himself with the circuit during the 15-minute pre-qualifying practice/warm-up and with his focus elsewhere recorded the second slowest lap of the session (61.659 seconds, 102.467 mph). In qualifying, Gommendy was set to run two stints, but after the first lap of his first stint a red flag came out. Following a short delay he headed back out completing three more laps. While working a fourth, Gommendy spun causing a red flag. After being restarted, he returned to the pits for tires and fuel then immediately went back on track. As the second stint progressed, Gommendy began to record progressively faster times. However, because of his red flag penalty, as each new fast time was posted it was taken off the board leaving him with his previous quick time. The painful process finally concluded with the end of the session.
Commenting on his day Gommendy said, "I did a good lap in the Pay By Touch MegaSpirea car, but I made a mistake and spun, so I lost my fastest lap. If not for that I would have been sixth. Overall, we are in a good position. We just basically need to keep improving the car. I think we have a top-five car right now and that is my goal every time out--to be in the top-five. The biggest problem is I don't know the circuits, and of course, I spun today."
Gommendy, a Champ Car rookie, is coming off a valiant 12th place finish in Mont-Tremblant. After qualifying on the pole his starting position was nullified when the #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing car experienced an electrical problem and failed to start. Gommendy eventually joined the race and persevered salvaging valuable championship points. As a result, Gommendy moved up one spot in the standings to 11th with 74 points (he is actually tied for 10th with Paul Tracy, but Tracy owns the tiebreaker by virtue of his victory in Cleveland). Gommendy, who is fifth in the rookie race, has finished in the top-10 twice in six races this year placing a season high fifth in his debut at Las Vegas and seventh in Portland. In addition to the 12th place showing in Mont-Tremblant the personable 27-year-old Frenchman has finished 11th at Long Beach and 13th at Houston and Cleveland. At both Long Beach and Houston, Gommendy showed his considerable talent by engaging in spirited battles for the lead with three-time Series Champion Sebastien Bourdais before making late race stops for a fuel. Gommendy, who is just the third Champ Car rookie since 2001 to capture a pole, has qualified in the top-10 four times in six attempts this year. In addition to the pole in Mont-Tremblant, the resident of Paris, France has qualified fifth in Portland, where he was the fastest in the rain on Saturday, but lost a front row spot when he caused a red flag; eighth in Houston and ninth in Long Beach, (started 11th in Las Vegas and 12th at Cleveland). Gommendy, a veteran of European open wheel racing having won the 2002 Formula 3 France championship and 2002 Formula 3 Macau GP, is fifth in laps led (31), eighth in miles completed (891.671) and ninth in laps completed (427).
Jani started the day by running the third most laps of the morning practice as he too made his first circuits at Exhibition Place. His best lap in the session came in at 61.538 seconds (102.666 mph), good for 12th on the speed charts. In the 15-minute warm-up, he continued to turn a lot of laps, running the second most (10). He recorded the 13th fastest time of the session posting a lap of 61.256 seconds (103.141 mph), which put him 12th on the combined practice report. For qualifying, Jani ran two stints of six laps each. He clocked his fast time on the fourth lap of his first stint.
"I couldn't do anything in the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing car today," Jani said. "Pre-qualifying was not bad, but in qualifying I had problems braking. I couldn't drive a lap as I was fighting so much. We have to take a look at all the data and figure out what to do so we are better tomorrow."
Jani, who like his teammate is a Champ Car rookie, is currently ninth in the championship standings and fourth in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year race, with 88 points. He is just nine points out of sixth place. The 23-year-old native of Jens, Switzerland is coming off a hard fought sixth place finish last weekend in Mont-Tremblant, his second top-10 showing in as many races, which includes the first podium of the year for PKV Racing, a third place showing, in Cleveland. Jani, whose father hails from India, has been competitive in almost every race this year. He has finished in the top-10 four times in his first six Champ Car events placing seventh at Long Beach despite a fueling problem and 10th at the season opener in Las Vegas, where he was the victim of a mechanical problem, to go with the sixth at Mont-Tremblant and third in Cleveland. In the other two races, the determined veteran of European open wheel racing was looking at a podium finish in Houston, but was knocked from the competition while running fourth and eventually finished 15th. Then in Portland, Jani ran as high as eighth, but was hampered by fuel mileage problems and ended up 12th. Jani has qualified in the top-10 four times in six tries this year. He started fourth at Houston, sixth at Mont-Tremblant, ninth in Las Vegas and 10th in Portland (11th in Cleveland and in Long Beach). Jani is sixth in both laps completed (454 out of a possible 493) and miles completed (953.169 out of a possible 1028.171). A member of the Red Bull driver development program since 2005, Jani was the test driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso in Formula One Team in 2006.
PKV Racing will be making its eighth and ninth starts while contesting its fifth race in Toronto this weekend. The team has qualified in the top-10 three times in seven attempts with a best starting position of fifth by Oriol Servia last year. They have finished in the top-10 twice in their previous seven starts with a besting showing of second by Jimmy Vasser in 2004 (Vasser was fourth in 2005).
This weekend's race is the second of three straight in Canada that comprise the Canadian Triple Crown. It also marks the halfway point of both the 2007 Champ Car World Series season and a grueling five race in six week segment that is perhaps the most important on the calendar and could well determine whether PKV Racing can contend for a top spot in the season ending standings.
There will be another practice session tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. followed by final qualifying at 1:15 p.m. The Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto, Round #7 of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season, will be held on Sunday, July 8, on the temporary street circuit at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The race will be televised live on ESPN at 1:00 p.m. (ET).