CHAMPCAR/CART: Zolder: PKV Racing Saturday notes



ZOLDER, BELGIUM -- SATURDAY, AUGUST 25, 2007 -- Round #11 -- 2007 Champ Car World Series season -- Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing driver Neel Jani will start ninth while teammate Tristan Gommendy will line up 15th for tomorrow's Champ Car Grand Prix of Belgium in Zolder, Belgium.

Jani, in the #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine, qualified with a fast lap of 73.555 seconds (121.966 mph) on the challenging 2.492-mile, 12-turn Circuit Zolder permanent road course. He will start on the inside of Row #5. Gommendy, #22 Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car, posted a fast time of 73.995 seconds (121.241 mph) in today's final qualifying and will start on the inside of Row #8.

Jani started the day eighth on the grid with a time of 74.823 seconds (119.8991 mph) following yesterday's provisional qualifying. During today's morning practice the team worked with some setup changes in preparation for final qualifying. However a series of red flags caused by other competitors prevented Jani's from putting together a series of consecutive laps. As a result, he posted the 12th fasted time of the session logging a quick lap of 74.847 seconds (119.861 mph). However, during the 15-minute afternoon practice/warm-up, it appeared that the changes made in the morning practice would bare fruit when Jani spent much of the session at the top of the speed charts with a fast lap of 74.183 seconds (120.933 mph), but eventually dropping to fifth on the practice report. In qualifying, Jani ran two stints both of six laps and both on the Bridgestone alternate (red) tires. Heading out for his first stint, one minute into the 30-minute session, he turned his quick lap on the fourth circuit of the track. At the end of the stint he sat third on the grid. But, during his second run he was unable to continue the improvement and fell to the middle of the field on the final grid.

Jani has now qualified in the top-10 nine times in 11 attempts, with a season best starting position of fourth in Houston. The 23-year-old native of Jens, Switzerland has finished in the top-10 eight times in the first 10 races of the season and is on a streak of six consecutive top-10 finishes, which includes three podium performances, season high seconds at Toronto and San Jose as well as a third in Cleveland. The three podium finishes establish a team record for most by an individual driver in a season and ties the record for the most by the team in a season. Jani currently sits seventh in the championship standings, third in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year race, with 167 points. He is three points out of fifth and 30 out of third in the championship race.

"The Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing team had a good pre-qualifying session on old tires," Jani said. "On the first set of Bridgestone red (alternate) tires we ran decent times. We just felt we needed to make a little improvement to the front of the car and we could get to 73.3 or 73.2. But, then on the second set of tires we developed some understeer, which in the end prevented us from getting the lap time we need. The good thing is that we were good on old tires in pre-qualifying, so I think I have a good race car."

Gommendy, who was sixth on yesterday's provisional grid with a time of 74.590 seconds (120.273 mph), recorded the ninth fastest lap of the morning practice posting a quick time of 74.682 seconds (120.125 mph). In the afternoon warm-up, he dropped to 13th on the speed charts with a time of 74.563 seconds (120.317 mph). The slide continued in final qualifying. Like his teammate, Gommendy ran two six laps stints on the alternate tire recording his fastest qualifying time on the fourth lap of the first stint.

Gommendy has now qualified in the top-10 five times in ten attempts (did not qualify in Edmonton due to injury) this year with one pole. The 27-year-old a resident of Paris, France has finished in the top-10 four times in the nine events he has contested with a best showing of fifth in his Champ Car debut at Las Vegas. Gommendy, who is coming off back-to-back top-10 showings, currently sits 12th in the championship standings and fifth in the rookie of the year race with 112 points. He is 26 points out of tenth place.

Commenting on his qualifying effort Gommendy said, "It was a disappointing qualification for the Pay By Touch MegaSpirea PKV Racing team. I am not sure what the problem is, but we will go over the data and I am sure we can improve the car for the race tomorrow."

Jani, who began his open wheel racing career in Europe before joining Champ Car this season, is making his second appearance at Zolder having competed here in 2001 in the Formula Renault 2000 EuroCup Series. His current streak of top-10 finishes has projected him into the fight for a top-three finish in the championship race. In addition to the three podiums, Jani has finished sixth in Mont-Tremblant, seventh at Long Beach, ninth at Edmonton and 10th at Road America and Las Vegas. Fueling problems in Long Beach and a mechanical failure in Las Vegas prevented top-five finishes at those two events. Jani was also looking at a top-five showing in Houston, but was knocked from the competition while running fourth and eventually finished 15th. He was running sixth at Road America, but had to pit for a splash of fuel during the closing laps of the race. Only in Portland, where he finished 12th has he not been in contention. Jani has been very consistent in qualifying this year. He has started a season high fourth in Houston, qualified fifth in Edmonton and San Jose, sixth in Mont-Tremblant, seventh at Road America, ninth in Las Vegas and 10th in Toronto and Portland to go with today's ninth place starting spot (11th in Cleveland and Long Beach). Jani is eighth in laps led (30) and third in both laps completed (783) and miles completed (1639.637). A member of the Red Bull driver development program since 2005, Jani, whose father hails from India, was a test driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso in Formula One Team in 2006.

Like his teammate, Gommendy is a veteran of European open wheel racing having won the 2002 Formula 3 France championship and the prestigious Formula 3 Macau GP race also in 2002. He is also making his second appearance at Circuit Zolder having competed here in 2004 in the Formula Nissan World Series placing second. In addition to the fifth place showing in Vegas, Gommendy's other top-10 finishes 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's top qualifying efforts are the pole, which came in Mont-Tremblant (just the second in PKV Racing history and the first on a road course, which also made him the third Champ Car rookie to capture a pole since 2001) a fifth in Portland, an eighth in Houston and San Jose plus a ninth in Long Beach. He is seventh in laps led (31) and 12th in laps completed (587 out of a total of 822) and 13th in miles completed (1260.616 out of a total of 1714.639).

-credit: pkv

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sébastien Bourdais , Neel Jani , Tristan Gommendy
Teams Toro Rosso