CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto: PKV Racing Saturday notes



TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA -- Round #7 -- 2007 Champ Car World Series season -- PKV Racing's Neel Jani picked up six places in today's final qualifying and will start ninth in tomorrow's Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Teammate Tristan Gommendy will start 14th.

Jani, in the #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, posted a fast lap of 58.834 seconds (107.387 mph) on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place temporary street circuit, vaulting him from 15th on yesterday's provisional grid to the inside of Row #5 on the final starting grid. Gommendy, #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car, posted a fast time of 59.265 seconds (106.606 mph), but despite picking up almost .4 of a second dropped three places on the grid and will line up on the outside of Row #7.

Jani struggled during yesterday's provisional qualifying, posting a time of 60.123 seconds (105.085 mph). In morning practice the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing crew experimented with a series of setup changes and while Jani could only manage the 14th quickest time of the session, a lap of 60.020 second (105.265 mph), the stage for his move up the grid was set. In the 15-minute afternoon pre-qualifying practice/warm-up Jani continued to show signs that his car was improved by running the 11th fastest time, 59.786 seconds (105.677 mph), of the session. For qualifying the team left nothing to chance sending Jani out just after the drop of the green flag for the 30-minute session. Running on an open track and shod with Bridgestone "red" alternate tires, Jani logged his fastest qualifying time on the seventh and final lap of the stint. The first segment time initially placed Jani fourth on the grid. During his second stint, also on "red" tires, Jani was trying to up the ante, but spun on the fifth lap of the run and made slight contact with the concrete barrier. However, the contact was enough to damage his rear wing and bring an end to his day.

"I had a good run on the first set of new Bridgestone red (alternate) tires in the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing car," Jani said. "The second set I just tried to do a little bit more, but it was a little too much and I spun off. I just barely touched the barrier, but my rear wing was broken so I couldn't finish the stint," he explained. "The Red Bull Gulfstream team definitely improved the car from yesterday to today. Now we just have to see what we can do in the race tomorrow," Jani concluded.

Jani, a Champ Car rookie, has now qualified in the top-10 five times in seven tries. In addition to today's ninth place starting position he has qualified fourth at Houston, sixth in Mont-Tremblant, ninth in Las Vegas and 10th in Portland (11th in Cleveland and Long Beach). The talented 23-year-old 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. Jani is coming off 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. The native of Jens, Switzerland, whose father hails from India, has been competitive in almost every race this year. He has finished in the top-10 four times in six events this year placing seventh at Long Beach, despite a fueling problem and 10th in Las Vegas, where he was the victim of a mechanical failure, to go with the sixth at Mont-Tremblant and third in Cleveland. In the other two races, Jani 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 ended up 12th. Jani, a member of the Red Bull driver development program since 2005 and a test driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso in Formula One Team in 2006, is sixth in both laps completed (454 out of a possible 493) and miles completed (953.169 out of a possible 1028.171)..

Gommendy, who provisionally qualified 11th with a fast lap of 59.624 seconds (105.964 mph), did not far as well as his teammate in today's final qualifying. Things started well in morning practice when Gommendy, who had a lap of 59.3 voided during yesterday's provisional qualifying nullified when he was penalized for causing a red flag, recorded the eighth fastest time of the morning practice logging a lap of 59.616 seconds (105.978 mph). However, things began to unravel in the 15-minute afternoon warm-up when Gommendy placed 14th on the speed charts with a time of 60.024 seconds (105.258 mph). Regrouping for final qualifying the Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing team made some adjustments which allowed Gommendy to run his fastest time of the weekend during the fifth lap of his second stint, the 13th overall of his 15 total.

Commenting on the final qualifying session Gommendy said, "It was a disappointing qualifying session for the Pay By Touch MegaSpirea team. We improved the car, but not as much as everyone else. Now we go back to the garage, look at all the data and figure out what to do for the race tomorrow. Hopefully, we can improve the car and maybe, Jimmy (Vasser) and the team can come up with a race strategy that will give me a chance to get up front."

Gommendy, also a rookie, but a veteran of European open wheel racing, has now has qualified in the top-10 four times in seven attempts this year. He has the team's only pole this season taking the top spot on the grid last weekend in Mont-Tremblant. The pole, just the second in PKV Racing history, and first on a road course, was just the third by a Champ Car rookie since 2001. In addition to the Mont-Tremblant pole, Gommendy has qualified fifth in Portland, eighth in Houston and ninth in Long Beach, (started 11th in Las Vegas and 12th at Cleveland). He is currently tied for 10th in the standings with 74 points, but sits 11th because Paul Tracy owns the tie-breaker by virtue of his win in Cleveland. He is fifth in the rookie race. Gommendy, 27, 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. He finished 12th in Mont-Tremblant after an electrical problem nullified his starting position, 11th at Long Beach and 13th at Houston and Cleveland. At both Long Beach and Houston, the personable resident of Paris, France 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 fuel. Gommendy, who 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).

PKV Racing will be making its eighth and ninth starts while contesting its fifth race in Toronto. 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 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.

The Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto, Round #7 of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season, will be held tomorrow, 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).

-credit: pkvracing

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Sébastien Bourdais , Neel Jani , Tristan Gommendy