PKV Racing enters its fifth season of Champ Car competition, this weekend at the historic season opening Vegas Grand Prix, April 6-8, on the streets of downtown Las Vegas, looking to establish itself as a perennial championship contender during the 2007 Champ Car World Series season.
PKV Racing is co-owned by successful venture capitalists Kevin Kalkhoven, who also co-owns the Champ Car World Series, and 1996 Series Champion Jimmy Vasser. Kalkhoven established PKV Racing in 2003 as PK Racing. In 2004, Vasser joined the team in the dual roles of owner and driver. Over the last three seasons they have built PKV Racing into a contender for podium finishes as well as a resident of the top-10 in the championship standings.
For 2007, the team will feature several new additions and changes. Veteran motorsports manager Mark Johnson, who officially took the helm of the team last year in Toronto (the sixth race of the season), begins his first full season as General Manager of PKV Racing. Joining Johnson are two new drivers, Neel Jani and Tristan Gommendy, a new Technical Manager, David Brzozowski and a new Crew Chief, Greg Senerius. In addition, new sponsors Red Bull, Pay By Touch, MegaSpirea and iRise join existing sponsors Bell Micro, now in its third season with the team and Gulfstream, which enters it fourth year of sponsorship, to give PKV Racing a new look and place the team on a solid footing as it pursues its goal of moving to the next level and challenging for a championship.
PKV Racing will field a two-car effort in 2007 with Jani piloting the #21 Red Bull-Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine and Gommendy taking the wheel of the #22 Pay By Touch-MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone entry.
While a rookie in the Champ Car World Series, Jani is no stranger to the competitive world of open-wheel racing. The 23-year-old native of Rorschach, Switzerland, is a veteran of European racing having competed in go-karts, the Swiss Formula A Lista Junior Championship, where he earned his first formula car title, plus the Formula Renault 2000, Formula Renault V6, GP2 and A1 GP Championships. Jani, who tested for the Swiss Formula One Sauber Petronas Team in 2003 and 2004, became a member of the Red Bull driver development program in 2005.
With Red Bull backing, he spent the 2006 season as a test driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula One team and competed in four GP2 races plus four A1 GP events taking the win and finishing fourth in Malaysia. Jani, who signed with PKV Racing in January, has been very competitive during preseason testing with the new DP01 chassis, finishing in the top-three at each of the three open tests.
“I am very excited to be competing in my first Champ Car race,” Jani said. “The Red Bull-Gulfstream PKV Racing Team had a good preseason. We were in the top-three at every test and learned a lot about the new chassis, so I know we can be competitive,” he noted.
“I have a bit more of an advantage this first race than at other races. Everyone will be competing with a new car and on a new track, so I am not at as much of a disadvantage as I would be on a track where most of the drivers have competed before,” Jani explained. “I want to thank Red Bull and PKV Racing for this opportunity and I look forward to helping the team achieve the best results in their history.”
Gommendy, who recently signed with PKV Racing, is another veteran of European open wheel racing. The 27-year-old Frenchman spent the 2006 season driving nine events for iSport International in GP2 and four for Pons Racing in the World Series by Renault, earning one pole and one podium.
He competed in the Formula 3 France series capturing the championship in 2002 with five wins, 10 poles and 10 podiums in 14 races, and various F3 events around the world (won the Formula 3 Macau GP in 2002). In addition, Gommendy has competed in Formula Renault V6 Eurocup and the Formula Nissan World Series.
“My first Champ Car start is going to be a learning experience,” Gommendy said. “I have only tested the Pay By Touch-MegaSpirea PKV Racing car once, at Laguna Seca, so I am a little bit behind the other drivers as far as knowing what the new car is capable of doing. Fortunately, I have a very experienced team and with the help of Jimmy Vasser and my teammate Neel Jani I am looking forward to having a competitive race in Las Vegas.”
Johnson, who is supported by Technical Director Tom Brown, has assembled a wealth of talent making this the strongest team in the five year history of PKV Racing. In addition to Brown, who returns for his third season in that position, the team boasts highly experienced technicians in Brzozowski, Senerius and veteran Crew Chief Don Oldenberg.
Over the last 22 years, Brown has been one of the most respected race car designers and engineers in the series. He leads a group of veteran engineers including Yves Touron, Garrett Mothershead and Bill Trowbridge. Bzozowski, who also counts over 20 years of experience in Champ Car racing, heads up an outstanding crew of technicians including Oldenburg, who enters his fourth season in that position with the PKV Racing and Senerius, who was recently promoted, but is also entering his fourth season with the team.
With the leadership, knowledge and experience of Kevin Kalkhoven, Jimmy Vasser and Mark Johnson, the driving talents of Jani and Gommendy as well an outstanding group of engineers and technicians led by Brown, Brzozowski, Oldenberg and Senerius, plus equipment and sponsorship from such major companies as Bell Micro, Bridgestone, Cosworth, Gulfstream, iRise, MegaSpirea, Pay By Touch and Red Bull, PKV Racing will be among the top challengers for the 2007 Vanderbilt Cup, which is awarded to the Series Champion.
For more information visit: www.pkvracing.com
– Kevin Diamond-
05.04.2007 / MaP