Jani’s luck fades with tires
Had it not been for a worn set of tires, rookie Neel Jani might today be enjoying his first Champ Car victory.
Not that a second-place finish is all that devastating.
Jani scored a third podium finish in his past four races Sunday at the San Jose Grand Prix. That's quite an accomplishment based on how his race weekend began.
He was last in Friday's provisional qualifying before recovering to nail down the fifth spot on the grid in Saturday's final qualifying session.
Jani moved quickly Sunday into second place after early trouble knocked No. 2 qualifier Sebastien Bourdais down a few notches and knocked out No. 3 qualifier Dan Clarke. Now running up front, Jani didn't have to depend on an alternate pit strategy and luck; that's how he had finished third in Cleveland and second in Toronto.
"We were on the normal fuel strategy and still finished second, so in the end we can be happy after the bad weekend," Jani said.
Jani led 30 laps and appeared to be the driver to beat for most of the day. He battled with Oriol Servia for the lead in the middle of the race; Servia passed Jani in the hairpin for the lead on Lap 66, only to see Jani return the favor on the Lap 84 restart after a caution.
But Jani's luck - and tires - were about to go away.
Jani was running on the red Bridgestone tires, which are a softer compound than the normal black-sidewall version. With the tires beginning to give up, Jani was hard-pressed to hold his lead when Robert Doornbos began pressuring him.
"The reds were just way too bad and they went on me big time," Jani said.
For the rest of the race, he battled the unenviable combination of understeer and oversteer.
After starting the race on red tires and getting good results, this was not what Jani was expecting when he went to his second set of reds. "For the first stint, I had a set of reds and they were actually very good," he said. "We tried the blacks in the middle stint and I was struggling a little bit there. So we thought maybe go back onto the reds." More at San Jose Mercury News