Gommendy out, Servia in at PKV PKV Racing General Manager Mark Johnson announced today that Oriol Servia will pilot the #22 Pay By Touch PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone entry at the Lexmark Indy 300, October 19-21, on the temporary street circuit in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia.
Servia, who competed for PKV Racing in 2006, will replace Tristan Gommendy, who will be sidelined due to unresolved business issues. Servia contested 11 of the first 12 races this year for Forsythe Championship Racing and currently sits sixth in the championship standings with 204 points. He is just five points out of fifth place, 34 out of third and 39 out of second. Servia was not scheduled to compete in Australia.
“Unfortunately, Tristan had an unresolved business situation that will prevent him from competing this weekend in Australia,” Johnson said. “He is continuing to try and resolve the situation and we have high hopes that he will return to the team for the Mexico City race,” noted Johnson. “Fortunately for us, Oriol was available this weekend and given his proven talent, familiarity with the team, in particular the fact that he will be working with the same engineer he had last year, and strong record recently at Surfers Paradise, we feel bringing him on board will give PKV Racing the best opportunity to have a successful weekend. We are also pleased because this provides Oriol, one of the top drivers in the Champ Car series, an opportunity to continue to battle for a top-three spot in the championship standings.”
Servia has placed in the top-10 in the championship standings in three of the past four seasons including a career high second place showing in 2005. So far this season, he has finished in the top-10 in 10 of his 11 starts with four top-five showings including two podium performances (second at Long Beach and third at San Jose). The 33-year-old native of Pals, Catalonia, Spain has been particularly strong on street circuits this year placing fourth at Houston, seventh at Cleveland, tenth at Toronto and sixth in Edmonton to go with the podiums at Long Beach and San Jose (he did not compete in Las Vegas). Servia is fourth in laps led (83) and eighth in both laps (876 out of 962) and miles (1889.122 out of 2086.841) completed.
“I am very excited to have the opportunity to continue my fight for a place among the leaders in the championship standings,” Servia said. “I want to thank Mr. Kalkhoven, Jimmy Vasser and Mark Johnson for giving me this opportunity. The good thing is that I know a lot of the PKV Racing crew members and I will be working with my engineer from last year, Yves Touron, so we are already very familiar with each other. I have been fighting for wins on the street circuits all year and I am sure it won’t be any different in Surfers. Hopefully, I can get the win there for the team and myself.”
Driving for PKV Racing last year, Servia finished in the top-10 eight times in 14 races including four top-five showings with one podium performance. He placed 11th in the standings just three points out of 10th and 22 out of fifth. In the six races Servia did not place in the top-10, he DNF’ed (did not finish) each time, only once due to pilot error. All six times he was running in the top-five when he went out of the race. Servia qualified in the top-10 in 12 of the 14 races last year with five top-five starting spots. His qualifying record earned him the team record for consecutive top-five starting positions (4) and tied him with Jimmy Vasser and Cristiano da Matta for the most top-10 starting spots in a season.
Servia, who unabashedly says that the 2.795-mile, 12-turn, Surfers Paradise downtown street circuit is “my favorite track in the Champ Car series”, has been particularly impressive at Surfers the last two years. In 2005, he captured the pole and finished fifth then qualified sixth and leading the race in 2006 before a mechanical failure knocked him from the competition.
Servia will join Neel Jani, driver of the #21 Red Bull Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine in a two car effort for PKV Racing in Australia. Jani, who has been one of the top competitors in the series since Cleveland, is on a streak of eight consecutive top-ten performances that has given him a legitimate shot at becoming the first PKV Racing driver to finish in the top-five in the season ending standings (Vasser finished 6th in 2005). The 23-year-old native of Jens, Switzerland is currently seventh in the championship standings and third in the rookie of the year race, with 203 points. He is just six points out of fifth place, 35 out of third and 40 out of second (he is one point behind Servia in the standings).
Gommendy drove 11 of the first 12 races for PKV Racing this year previously sitting out the race in Edmonton due to a back injury. The 27-year-old a resident of Paris, France is currently 11th in the standings with 140 points, 40 out of tenth. He is fifth in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year race.
Gommendy has finished in the top-10 five times this year with two top-five showings and a best performance of fourth (Assen). His other top finishes are a fifth in his Champ Car debut in Las Vegas, sevenths in Portland and Road America plus an eighth in San Jose. Gommendy has qualified in the top-10 six times in 11 attempts 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 Gommendy just the third Champ Car rookie to capture a pole since 2001. The pole and a third place qualifying position at Assen tie Gommendy with Vasser for the two best combined starting spots by a PKV Racing driver in a single year (Vasser pole at Milwaukee and third at Las Vegas in 2005).