AJ Allmendinger started his new life with Forsythe Championship Racing on the perfect note when he grabbed fastest time in this afternoon's first qualifying session for the Grand Prix of Portand.
The American, dumped by RuSPORT little over a week ago, stormed to the top of the pack on his final lap of the session with a 58.378 second lap, guaranteeing a front-row grid slot for Sunday's race.
His switch to the red-walled softer tyres looked to be a waste when his warm-up run was interrupted by a red flag. However, when 16 of the 18 cars flooded onto the track for the final three minutes, he let many of them go ahead, and built up a gap ahead of him so as not to get blocked.
That meant he only just got past the start/finish line before the chequered flag fell, and it also meant his tyres weren't quite up to optimum temperature as he started his lap, resulting in a slightly lurid moment coming out of the first chicane.
However, the lap came together and he sneaked ahead of erstwhile top man Sebastien Bourdais of Newman/Haas Racing, who didn't run on reds.
Paul Tracy stayed on the harder black compound too, and spun at Turn 7. Both he and Bourdais felt a lack of grip at Turns 6 and 7, and Forsythe are going to pull Tracy's car apart tonight to locate the problem.
Will Power and Alex Tagliani produced fourth and fifth fastest times for Team Australia, but Dan Clarke was ahead of them both until he was docked his quickest time for causing the red flag. He thus ended up eighth, just behind CTE-Racing-HVM team-mate Nelson Philippe.
RuSPORT had a surprisingly downbeat session. Justin Wilson went off course on his fifth lap, and could do no better than sixth fastest, while Cristiano da Matta ended up 10th in his first qualifying session for the squad.
Jan Heylen did a superb job for Dale Coyne Racing to go 13th fastest and beat new teammate Mario Dominguez. The pair were split by Katherine Legge, who wound up just half a second off ninth-placed PKV Racing teammate Oriol Servia.
Friday qualifying times:
Pos Driver Team Time
1. AJ Allmendinger Forsythe 58.378
2. Sebastien Bourdais Newman/Haas 58.464 + 0.086
3. Paul Tracy Forsythe 59.121 + 0.743
4. Will Power Team Australia 59.160 + 0.782
5. Alex Tagliani Team Australia 59.275 + 0.897
6. Justin Wilson RuSPORT 59.283 + 0.905
7. Nelson Philippe CTE-HVM 59.354 + 0.976
8. Dan Clarke CTE-HVM 59.416 + 1.038
9. Oriol Servia PKV 59.485 + 1.107
10. Cristiano da Matta RuSPORT 59.575 + 1.197
11. Bruno Junqueira Newman/Haas 59.576 + 1.198
12. Andrew Ranger Conquest 59.633 + 1.255
13. Jan Heylen Dale Coyne 59.861 + 1.483
14. Katherine Legge PKV 59.903 + 1.525
15. Mario Dominguez Dale Coyne 1:00.035 + 1.657
16. Nicky Pastorelli Rocketsports 1:00.333 + 1.955
17. Charles Zwolsman Conquest 1:00.612 + 2.234
18. Tonis Kasemets Rocketsports 1:01.089 + 2.711