CHAMPCAR/CART: Zolder: PKV Racing race report

RED BULL GULFSTREAM PKV RACING'S NEEL JANI FINISHES EIGHTH AT CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF BELGIUM GOMMENDY HAS OIL LEAK FINISHES 16TH Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing driver Neel Jani finished eighth while teammate Tristan Gommendy placed 16th in...



Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing driver Neel Jani finished eighth while teammate Tristan Gommendy placed 16th in the Champ Car Grand Prix of Belgium on the challenging 2.492-mile, 12-turn Circuit Zolder permanent road course in Zolder, Belgium.

Jani, #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, who looked like a shoe-in for a top-five finish after the first stint of the race got shuffled back several positions when the yellow flags went against him, but still manage to extended his streak of consecutive top-10 finishes to seven. The 23-year-old native of Jens, Switzerland, who made his second start at Circuit Zolder today having competed here in 2001 in the Formula Renault 2000 EuroCup Series, has now finished in the top-10 nine times in the 11 races this season with three podiums. Jani remains seventh in the championship standings with 182 points, but is just 14 points out of fifth and 39 out of third. He is third in the Rookie of the Year race.

Gommendy, #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car, drove a determined race to go from 15th place up as high as third, based on a strategy move, and had a legitimate shoot at a top-10 finish when an oil leak ended his day on lap 60 of the 71-lap contest. The 27-year-old a resident of Paris, France, who also made his second appearance at Zolder having competed here in 2004 in the Formula Nissan World Series placing second, has now finished in the top-10 four times this year with a best showing of fifth. Gommendy is 12th in the standings with 117 points, 47 out of tenth place. He is fifth in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year race.

Jani, who started ninth, moved into eighth on the first lap. He remained in eighth for most of the first stint as the team emphasized fuel conservation. However, despite achieving the required number, Jani still managed to pass Paul Tracy for seventh just prior to the first yellow flag on lap 16. When the pits opened on lap 17, the Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team called Jani in and after getting outstanding service from his crew he rejoined the contest in sixth place. Nine laps later the second yellow flew and several teams elected to pit moving Jani into fifth place. He remained there until his second stop on lap 40, but because he pitted on the green he lost some track position to the cars that were out of sequence. Following a reshuffling of the field when teams pitted in and out of sequence for the third time and a strategy move by three cars following the third yellow flag on lap 49 played out, Jani found himself in eighth place with seven laps remaining. Unfortunately, despite having some "push-to-pass" left in the "tank" he was unable to move up any additional spots.

"The Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team had a good first pit stop," Jani said. "We gained some positions and ended up running in fifth place. At that point we were looking good. The car was going good. I was getting good fuel mileage. And I was catching the cars in front of me," he noted. "But, unfortunately, the yellow flags played against us and that put at the back of the leaders queue. At that point I just couldn't overtake anymore. I was quicker, but it was just not enough. That was the race done."

Gommendy, who started 15th, also got a good start picking up two places. He too had a strong first pit stop, on lap 17, moving into 12th place. He remained in 12th until the out of sequence strategy came into play on lap 27 moving him into eighth. Gommendy ran in eighth until the second round of stops, when like his teammate he dropped back as the out of sequence cars remained on track. By lap 49 he was back in the top-10 when the third yellow came out. When the pits opened on lap 50, most of the leaders made what would prove to be their final stop, but the Pay By Touch MegaSpirea team decided to gamble and stayed out. As a result, Gommendy moved into third place, where he was running when the car suddenly developed a oil leak that brought an end to his day.

"During the first stint I tried to save fuel and find a good opportunity to go out of sequence," Gommendy said. "Then we had a good first pit stop and we gained some positions. We started on the black (primary) Bridgestone tires, but switched to the red (alternate) tire during the first stop and it was quicker. So the car was running good," he noted. "It is always difficult to start 15th, but we definitely improved our position. Unfortunately, at the end we developed an oil leak and that was the end of our race. Hopefully, next week will be better for the Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing team," Gommendy concluded.

Jani, whose three podium finishes have established a single season team record for most by an individual driver and tied the record for the most by the team in a season, is on streak that has him in contention for a top-three finish in the championship race. In addition to the three podiums, season high seconds in Toronto and San Jose, where he led his first Champ Car laps, plus a third in Cleveland and today's eighth place showing, Jani has finished sixth in Mont-Tremblant, seventh at Long Beach, ninth at Edmonton and 10th at Road America and Las Vegas. At Long Beach, fueling problems, Las Vegas, mechanical failure, Houston, knocked out of the race while running fourth and Road America, sixth when forced to pit for a splash of fuel, Jani was in contention for top-five finishes. Only in Portland, where he finished 12th has he been out of contention. Jani has qualified in the top-10 nine times in 11 attempts, with a season best starting position of fourth in Houston. His other top-10 qualifying spots include fifth's in Edmonton and San Jose, sixth in Mont-Tremblant, seventh at Road America, ninths in Las Vegas and here in Zolder, plus 10ths in Toronto and Portland (11th in Cleveland and Long Beach). Jani, whose father hails from India, began his open wheel racing career in Europe before joining Champ Car this season. He has been a member of the Red Bull driver development program since 2005 and was a test driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula One Team in 2006.

Gommendy, who has been the victim of some bad luck this year, had his streak of two consecutive top-10 finishes snapped today. In addition to the fifth place showing in Vegas, Gommendy's other top-10 performances included sevenths in Portland and at Road America plus an eighth in San Jose. At both Long Beach and Houston, he engaged in spirited battles for the lead with three-time Series Champion Sebastien Bourdais before making late race stops for fuel. Gommendy has qualified in the top-10 five times in ten attempts (did not qualify in Edmonton due to injury) this year with one pole. The pole, which came in Mont-Tremblant, is just the second in PKV Racing history and the first on a road course. It also made him the third Champ Car rookie to capture a pole since 2001. His other top-10 starting positions area a fifth in Portland, an eighth in Houston and San Jose plus a ninth in Long Beach. Like his teammate, Gommendy is a veteran of European open wheel racing who joined Champ Car this season. He won the 2002 Formula 3 France championship and the prestigious Formula 3 Macau GP race also in 2002.

This weekend's race is the first of two consecutive events the Champ Car World Series will contest in Europe. The second event will be held next weekend at TT Assen Circuit in Assen, Holland. The two European races comprise the Phanos Resorts Champ Car European Cup, which will be awarded to the team that scores the most combined points at both events.

For the season PKV Racing drivers have qualified in the top-10 a total of 14 times in 21 attempts (#22 car did not qualify in Edmonton) with one pole, by Gommendy at Mont-Tremblant. They have finished in the top-10 a total of 13 times in 22 starts with the three podiums all by Jani. Both drivers have finished in the top-10 three times (Gommendy, seventh and Jani, 10th at Road America; Jani, second and Gommendy, eighth in San Jose; Gommendy, 5th and Jani, seventh in their Champ Car debuts at the season opening Grand Prix of Las Vegas).

Next up for PKV Racing is the Bavarian Champ Car Grand Prix, August 30 to September 1, on the TT Circuit Assen permanent road course in Assen, Holland. The Bavarian Champ Car Grand Prix, Round #12 of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season, will be televised same day tape delayed on ESPN Classic at 1:30 p.m. (ET).


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Paul Tracy , Neel Jani , Tristan Gommendy
Teams Toro Rosso