Adrian Quaife-Hobbs closes on Auto GP title with Curitiba pole
Adrian Quaife-Hobbs claimed his fifth pole position in six races in a closely fought Auto GP World Series qualifying session at Curitiba
The result earns the Briton a point and moves the long standing championship leader a step closer to lifting the title in this penultimate meeting of the season.
Series debutant Antonio Pizzonia and former Formula Master champion Chris van der Drift made Quaife-Hobbs work hard for his result.
Van der Drift earned a front row grid position for Saturday's opening race after recording a lap 0.136 seconds shy of Quaife-Hobbs' benchmark in the final five minutes of the session.
"At the beginning of the session we were very fast, but we then made a change to the car to counteract some understeer," said Quaife-Hobbs. "As the sun went down, and it got cooler, the track changed quite a lot, so it may have been that we would have been better leaving the car as it was."
Despite his proximity to claiming the Auto GP crown, Quaife-Hobbs vowed to retain the same approach that had proved successful over previous races.
"I know I don't have to win it this weekend, so if I take any risks they will be calculated. At the same time I will not be making gifts to anyone," he added.
Van der Drift was delighted with his Manor MP Motorsport team's recent progress, which he partly attributed to an engineering reshuffle.
"We have to see how the first corner goes tomorrow - Adrian is going for the championship, I am going for glory!" said van der Drift. "We started on medium compound Kumhos, but couldn't get any heat into them. We made a tweak before changing to soft tyres on and suddenly we found a big step forward."
The second Manor MP entry of Daniel de Jong had also appeared on course for a good result, but the Dutchman's strong showing was curtailed by a suspension problem. The session was red-flagged to allow de Jong's car to be recovered from its stranded position at Turn 6.
Former Jaguar and Williams Formula 1 driver Pizzonia ended the afternoon in an impressive third place for Ombra.
Pal Varhaug, Quaife-Hobbs' closest challenger in the drivers' standings, will join Pizzonia on the second row.
"I was disappointed not to find a better run," said the Norwegian. "I have picked up, I think, an allergy of some kind. My head is really woozy. It's not good and we need to find a solution."
After encountering gearbox problems in free practice two, Sergey Sirotkin took fifth place. The Russian was the final driver to break into the 1m13s, finishing half a second clear of Max Snegirev.
Sirotkin's Euronova team-mate Sergio Campana sat out the session owing to the accident that caused heavy damage to his car in the final free practice session.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Super Nova 1m12.012s 2. Chris van der Drift Manor MP 1m12.148s + 0.136s 3. Antonio Pizzonia Ombra 1m12.206s + 0.194s 4. Pal Varhaug Virtuosi UK 1m12.299s + 0.287s 5. Sergey Sirotkin Euronova 1m12.824s + 0.812s 6. Maxim Snegirev Campos 1m13.373s + 1.361s 7. Rafael Suzuki Ombra 1m13.516s + 1.504s 8. Daniel de Jong Manor MP 1m13.661s + 1.649s 9. Giuseppe Cipriani Campos 1m14.649s + 2.637s 10. Francesco Dracone Virtuosi UK 1m14.939s + 2.927s 11. Michele la Rosa MLR 71 1m15.472s + 3.460s 12. Sergio Campana Euronova
Adrian Quaife-Hobbs stays on top in second Auto GP practice in Brazil
Antonio Pizzonia wins on Auto GP debut at Curitiba