Edoardo Mortara snatched provisional pole position for the Macau Grand Prix on Thursday - before ending the session with a damaged car after getting caught up in someone else's accident.
The Italian had been fastest in morning practice and maintained such form throughout the incident-filled qualifying session as he steadily improved his lap time.
But his run of swift laps came to an abrupt end when, with just more than one minute to go, he could not avoid hitting the stranded car of Masaki Matsushita, who had spun into the middle of the road after hitting the barriers at Police.
Although delighted at his speed, Mortara could not hide his frustration at the incident - which damaged the nose of his car and brought the session to an early close as the track was totally blocked.
"It was really disappointing," said Mortara. "I was right behind him when he went off and there was no warning, nothing I could do. Luckily I hit him square on, so the only damage is to the nose. The car should be repaired for the morning."
Japanese F3 champion Carlo van Dam was second fastest, but more than three tenths away from Mortara's pace and well aware of how much work there is still to do.
"It is nice to be strong here, but what really counts is final qualifying tomorrow and then the races," said the TOM'S driver. "We are well prepared."
Roberto Streit was third fastest for Raikkonen Robertson Racing, three quarters of a second slower than Mortara, with Brendon Hartley recovering from the gearbox problems that cost him track time in the morning to set the fourth best time. Behind Renger van der Zande, British F3 champion Jaime Alguersuari was the fastest rookie in sixth spot.
The session was red flagged twice prior to the final incident involving Mortara and Matsushita. James Jakes was pushing hard to improve his pace when he spun into the barriers at Curva R after 17 minutes, then Nicola de Marco crashed at the same spot following the restart.