CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto: PKV Racing race report



TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA -- Round #7 -- 2007 Champ Car World Series -- Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing driver Neel Jani finish a season high second today in the Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place temporary street circuit in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Teammate Tristan Gommendy was the victim of an opening lap incident and placed 15th.

Jani, in the #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, drove an extremely strong and smart race, but also benefited from a tremendous strategy call and outstanding pit work by his crew to record his second podium finish in three races and third consecutive top-six showing. Gommendy, behind the wheel of the #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car, had his race come to an end before he could complete a single lap when he crashed into Jan Heylen, who had braked to avoid an incident in a blind corner that eventually involved five cars.

Jani, who started ninth, moved up to sixth following the first lap melee. He passed Dan Clarke for fifth place on lap 24 and was running there when he pitted for the first time on lap 35. Jani rejoined the race in 10th place, but was actually in fifth, as several cars were out of pit sequence. One lap later the rain that deluged the track earlier in the day, suddenly returned. Jani called PKV Racing General Manager Mark Johnson on the radio and indicated that the track was getting slick. Without hesitation Johnson replied that the team had already set out the rain tires and Jani could pit whenever he wanted. One lap later, and only three after his initial stop, Jani dove in and quickly took on his Bridgestone rain tires. While in the pits two cars spun on the now slippery circuit bringing out a yellow flag. With the pits now closed to pack up the field, Jani came back out in 10th place. Two laps later the pits were opened and the rest of the field came in for rain tires moving Jani from 10th to third behind Ryan Dalziel, who also pitted on lap 38 and Dan Clarke, who decided to stay on dry tires. Jani quickly re-passed the floundering Clarke, who later crashed, but dropped back to third when eventual winner Will Power passed. After holding off three-time series champions Sebastien Bourdais for several laps, Jani passed Dalziel on lap 62, who was also a victim of Power, to move into second place. From that point on Jani drove a flawless race while defending his position from a hard chagrining Wilson, who had worked his way back through the field.

This was my first race on a street course in the rain, so that was quite an experience," Jani said. "The key to the race was when Mark Johnson and I decided to pit for rain tires. As it turned out it was a good call and because I ended up in third place. From there I did a move on Dalziel to move into second place. At that point I knew I just need to stay calm and drive a smart race. I also have to thank the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing crew they did a fantastic job with the pit stops."

Jani, a Champ Car rookie, has now finished in the top-10 five times in the first seven races of this season with two podiums, the second here in Toronto and a third in Cleveland. The two podium performances sandwich a sixth place showing last weekend in Mont-Tremblant. The 23-year-old from of Jens, Switzerland is now seventh in the championship standings, which ties his highest position of the season, and third in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year race with 116 points. He is just 11 points out of fifth place.

Commenting on his season to date Jani said, "After a dreadful start to the season the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team is on an upward swing. Slowly we are getting back into the championship race and hopefully we can continue to improve and put up good results."

Gommendy, who started a season low 14th, got a good start and was pushing for more positions when he came barreling into Turn #7. Suddenly he came upon several cars that had all checked up to avoid Paul Tracy, who after collecting Simon Pagenaud's arrant front wing, lost control and crash. With no time to brake, Gommendy tried to avoid contact, but wound up hitting the rear tire of Jan Heylen. The impact launched Gommendy into the air almost sending him into a cartwheel. After landing and skidding to a stop the Pay By Touch MegaSpirea machine was damaged too badly to continue placing him a season low 15th.

Commenting on the incident Gommendy said, "From where I was sitting it was difficult to see what happened, but I spoke with Paul Tracy and he explained that he Simon Pagenaud's front wing came off and got caught under his car, so he couldn't turn and crashed. When everyone arrived into the corner, which is a blind corner, they all checked up (braked). When I arrive everybody was on the brakes and I had no time to react. I tried to move to the outside, but I touched the rear wheel of Jan Heylen and I flew into the air. When I landed the car was damaged and that was the end of my race."

Gommendy, also a rookie, has now finished in the top-10 twice in the first seven races this year with a best showing of fifth in his Champ Car debut in Las Vegas. The personable and talented 27-year-resident of Paris, France is now 13th in the Championship standings and sixth in the rookie of the year race with 80 points. Gommendy is 11 points out of tenth place.

PKV Racing made its eighth and ninth starts while contesting its fifth race in Toronto today. The team has qualified in the top-10 four times in nine attempts with a best starting position of fifth by Oriol Servia last year. They have now finished in the top-10 three times with Jani's second place showing today tying Jimmy Vasser (2004) for team honors (Vasser was fourth in 2005).

For the season PKV Racing drivers have qualified in the top-10 nine times in 14 attempts with one pole, by Gommendy at Mont-Tremblant. They have finished in the top-10 seven times with two podiums both by Jani (second here in Toronto and third in Cleveland).

Jani has qualified in the top-10 five times in seven tries. He started ninth today, a season high fourth in Houston, sixth in Mont-Tremblant, ninth in Las Vegas and 10th in Portland (11th in Cleveland and Long Beach). Jani has been competitive in almost every race this year. In addition to the two podium finishes and the sixth at Mont-Tremblant, he has placed seventh at Long Beach and 10th in Las Vegas. At Long Beach, fueling problem, and Las Vegas, mechanical failure, he was on track for 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, whose father hails from India, 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.

Gommendy 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 today in Toronto). His finishes include the fifth in Las Vegas, a seventh in Portland, 12th in Mont-Tremblant after an electrical problem nullified his starting position, 11th at Long Beach and 13th at Houston and Cleveland to go with today 15th place finish. 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, who like his teammate is a veteran of European open wheel race, has won the 2002 Formula 3 France championship and the prestigious Formula 3 Macau GP race also in 2002.

Following a much needed one week break PKV Racing will head back to Canada for the third consecutive Canadian event, the final round of the Canadian Triple Crown and the fourth of five races in six weeks, the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton, July 20-22, on the temporary circuit at City Centre Airport in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton, Round #8 of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season, will be televised live on ESPN at 4:00 p.m. (ET).

-credit: pkvracing

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Sébastien Bourdais , Neel Jani , Tristan Gommendy , Jan Heylen , Will Power , Simon Pagenaud , Dan Clarke
Teams Toro Rosso