Antonio Pizzonia of Corinthians grabbed pole position for the fourth round of Superleague Formula at Estoril in Portugal when he beat Olympiacos's Esteban Guerrieri in a nail-biting head-to-head shootout.
Pizzonia drove closer than usual to the rear of Guerrieri's car, and his tactic of chasing from close quarters seemed to pay off. He was 0.115s up at sector one, which dropped to 0.023s by sector two, but his advantage at the finish line had extended to 0.180s to defeat his Argentinian rival.
In the semis, Pizzonia beat Donington Park victor Max Wissel (FC Basel) by almost half a second, while Guerrieri won the second encounter, outpacing Liverpool's series leader Adrian Valles by the best part of nine tenths of a second.
In the quarter finals, Wissel vanquished earlier Group B pacesetter Alvaro Parente (Porto) with an impressive 1m28.800s, faster than the Spa GP2 race winner by three-tenths. Guerrieri convincingly defeated last year's pole man here, Roma's Franck Perera, by half a second.
Valles beat practice pacesetter Yelmer Buurman (Anderlecht) by almost four tenths, while Pizzonia set a stellar 1m28.390s to see off John Martin of Rangers, who was a full 1.3s slower than the Brazilian, who claimed the fastest time at this stage.
In the group sessions, Guerrieri had topped Group A with a lap of 1m29.191s, closely followed by Martin (+ 0.008s) and Valles (+ 0.022s). Wissel was fourth fastest, almost two tenths shy.
Debutante Maria de Villota qualified last after suffering a spin at Turn 1. Also not making it through to the knock-outs were Nelson Panciatici (Lyon), Pedro Petiz (Sporting Lisbon), Carlo Van Dam (PSV) and Ho Pin Tung (Galatasaray).
In the apparently much stronger Group B, Parente set the pace with a stunning 1m28.235s, 0.184s faster than Buurman. Pizzonia was third quickest, ahead of Perera. AC Milan's Giorgio Pantano missed out by 0.153s, but would start ahead of Kasper Andersen (FC Midtyjlland), Craig Dolby (Tottenham), Sebastien Bourdais (Sevilla) and Enrique Bernoldi (Flamengo).
Such was the discrepancy in speed between the two groups, Guerrieri's fastest time from the first session would only have put him ninth in the second - and was slower than Bourdais. Wildly changing track conditions were cited as the reason for this.
Pos Driver Team Time 1. Antonio Pizzonia Corinthians 1m28.447s 2. Esteban Guerrieri Olympiacos 1m28.627s 3. Adrian Valles Liverpool 1m29.334s 4. Max Wissel FC Basel 1m29.553s 5. Alvaro Parente FC Porto 1m29.159s 6. Yelmer Buurman Anderlecht 1m29.548s 7. Franck Perera AS Roma 1m29.601s 8. John Martin Glasgow Rangers 1m29.762s 9. Giorgio Pantano AC Milan 1m28.710s 10. Kasper Andersen FC Midtylland 1m28.845s 11. Craig Dolby Tottenham Hotspur 1m28.960s 12. Sebastien Bourdais Sevilla FC 1m29.005s 13. Enrique Bernoldi Flamengo 1m29.686s 14. Nelson Panciatici Olympique Lyonnais 1m29.670s 15. Pedro Petiz Sporting Clube de Portugal 1m29.962s 16. Carlo van Dam PSV Eindhoven 1m30.715s 17. Ho-Pin Tung Galatasaray 1m31.676s 18. Maria de Villota Atletico Madrid 1m32.457s