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Alguersuari takes first FR3.5 pole

Jaime AlguersuariToro Rosso Formula 1 driver Jaime Alguersuari dispelled any apprehensions over running a dual programme by claiming his first Formula Renault 3.5 pole position at Portimao today.

Alguersuari's time of 1m33.462s was almost 0.5 seconds quicker than his Carlin team-mate Oliver Turvey. With no Superpole session in the Le Mans Series supporting meeting, the lap gifted the Spaniard his first pole since the British Formula 3 final at Donington Park last year.

"I am so pleased as qualifying was the area we really needed to work on," said Alguersuari.

"It is actually quite difficult for the first ten laps coming back to World Series as you familiarise yourself again. It is not just the brakes and power, it is the things like the seating position and mirrors, but a good driver should be able to adapt.

The circuit is very bumpy and the track conditions have changed a lot since this morning, where we weren't able to show our true performance because of an engine problem. It was very slippery this afternoon, but I'm happy with our margin, I think it is quite impressive. Maybe some other drivers couldn't put a lap together, I am sure Ollie could have done a faster time."

Fairuz Fauzy repeated his free practice form to set the fastest time in the earlier A Group, and will join Alguersuari on the front row for tomorrow's feature race. Silverstone winner Charles Pic was just a tenth of a second adrift of the Malaysian in the A group, but ahead of championship leader Bertrand Baguette.

Jon Lancaster will start from pole position for the reverse grid race, courtesy of fourth in the B group. Frenchman Guillaume Moreau provided a morale boosting step forward in performance with newcomer SG Formula to finish eighth overall.

The scorching Algarve heat took a toll on both lap times and machinery. With track temperatures 25 degrees higher than this morning, and the advent of a high wind, many drivers were shocked to find themselves around two seconds slower than their morning times.

"I think it is largely the heat," said third qualifier Turvey. "There was also no wind this morning and it has really picked up now."

A far higher than average number of engine related problems hit the usually reliable 480bhp, 24V, V6 motors in practice and qualifying.

Lancaster's new Comtec team-mate, GP2 racer Alberto Valerio, was suspected to have had two failures, while an engine problem denied British F3 graduate Daniel Ricciardo the opportunity of setting a competitive time in qualifying.

Championship protagonists James Walker and Marcos Martinez were at a loss to explain their relative slumps in performance. Both Walker, a provisional 16th, and Martinez in 19th are eagerly waiting to exam the data.

"This weekend is really strange," said Martinez. "Every session we have been losing 1.5s to our competitors and we don't know why. We have changed everything we can think of, like the differential and some big changes to the base set-up, but it is not working out.

"Even Walker who was fastest yesterday is struggling; perhaps it is because it is the first time we have run the car in this heat."

Group A:

Pos  Driver                Team      Time       Gap
 1.  Fairuz Fauzy          Fortec    1m33.762s
 2.  Charles Pic           Tech 1    1m33.866s  + 0.104s
 3.  Bertrand Baguette     Draco     1m34.004s  + 0.242s
 4.  Guillaume Moreau      SG        1m34.044s  + 0.282s
 5.  Chris van der Drift   Epsilon   1m34.202s  + 0.440s
 6.  Pasquale Di Sabatino  RC        1m34.468s  + 0.706s
 7.  Sten Pentus           Fortec    1m34.534s  + 0.772s
 8.  James Walker          P1        1m34.664s  + 0.902s
 9.  Greg Mansell          Ultimate  1m34.756s  + 0.994s
10.  Filip Salaquarda      Prema     1m34.978s  + 1.216s
11.  Julian Leal           Prema     1m35.400s  + 1.638s
12.  Daniel Ricciardo      Tech 1

Group B:

Pos  Driver             Team         Time       Gap
 1.  Jaime Alguersuari  Carlin       1m33.462s
 2.  Oliver Turvey      Carlin       1m33.910s  + 0.448s
 3.  Dani Clos          Epsilon      1m33.930s  + 0.468s
 4.  Jon Lancaster      Comtec       1m34.020s  + 0.558s
 5.  Miguel Molina      Ultimate     1m34.046s  + 0.584s
 6.  Marco Barba        Draco        1m34.272s  + 0.810s
 7.  Anton Nebylitskiy  SG           1m34.516s  + 1.054s
 8.  Daniil Move        P1           1m34.574s  + 1.112s
 9.  Alberto Valerio    Comtec       1m34.702s  + 1.240s
10.  Marcos Martinez    Pons         1m34.760s  + 1.298s
11.  Michael Herck      Interwetten  1m34.864s  + 1.402s
12.  Federico Leo       Pons         1m35.270s  + 1.808s

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