Mikhail Aleshin has claimed pole position for this afternoon's opening round of the World Series by Renault at Monza
The Russian comprehensively eclipsed the nearest rival in his group, series debutant Giedo van der Garde, by six tenths of a second.
Van der Garde inherits his position after French newcomer Julien Jousse was stripped of his times for a yellow flag infringement. It was a blow for Jousse whose pace has been the surprise of the weekend.
Afterwards, Aleshin was full of praise for his Carlin team. "Everyone has worked so hard to find this set-up, we seem to be gaining time everywhere over the opposition," he said.
Marco Bonanomi topped the A group in what was a much closer affair.
The Italian, on home soil with Italian team RC Motorsport, held off a series of late charges by Sebastian Vettel by just four thousandths of a second.
"It's a perfect start," said Bonanomi, "but we will need to change the car quite a lot for the race, we have been going well over a single lap, but we're losing a lot of speed following people in the slipstream."
Monza is the curtain raiser for the series' introduction of points for qualifying. Aleshin and Bonanomi's efforts are rewarded with four points each, with two points each going to van der Garde and Vettel.
Fifth place qualifier Bertrand Baguette and series returnee Alvaro Parente in sixth also receive one point each.
Parente headed the first group for much of the session, and was only disposed of from the top spot when Bonanomi put in a 1:37.186 with four minutes remaining. The performance underlines the progress he and teammate Jousse have made with French outfit Tech1 over the winter.
"We're on the up," confirmed Jousse, "but coming from Formula Renault my biggest worry is how I'm going to feel after my first race in these cars driving for 45 minutes."
After the drivers had access to over seven hours of track time on Thursday, the session ran relatively incident free.
However, Jersey-man James Walker's day did not go to plan when his Fortec machine ground to a halt at the Ascari chicane.
"I was on my third lap and suddenly had a complete loss of drive," said James. Team-boss Richard Dutton later admitted they had been hit by an electronic failure in the engine.
Reigning champions Comtec's title defence also failed to get under way smoothly. Jaap van Lagen will start outside of a representative position having spun into the gravel entering the Parabolica corner.
"I was just starting to get some heat into my tyres, and beginning to push when the rears locked-up and around I went," said Jaap. The Dutchman endeavoured to remain optimistic.
"It wasn't an accident in that at least I didn't hit the tyres. I've started 16th here before and finished 9th, so if there's an accident at the first corner, and I pass a few people, I could still finish in the top ten and win the reverse grid race tomorrow!"
Pos Driver Team Time 1. Mikhail Aleshin Carlin Motorsport 1:36.145 2. Marco Bonanomi RC Motorsport 1:36.967 + 0.822 3. Sebastian Vettel Carlin Motorsport 1:36.971 + 0.826 4. G.van der Garde Victory Engineering SpA 1:37.131 + 0.986 5. Alvaro Parente Tech 1 Racing 1:37.085 + 0.940 6. B.Baguette KTR 1:37.429 + 1.284 7. Guillaume Moreau KTR 1:37.400 + 1.255 8. Fairuz Fauzy Cram Competition 1:37.430 + 1.285 9. Alvaro Barba International Draco Racing 1:37.424 + 1.279 10. Clivio Piccione RC Motorsport 1:37.431 + 1.286 11. Carlos Iaconelli Pons Racing 1:37.473 + 1.328 12. F.Albuquerque Epsilon Euskadi 1:37.445 + 1.300 13. Charlie Kimball Victory Engineering SpA 1:37.485 + 1.340 14. Milos Pavlovic International Draco Racing 1:37.447 + 1.302 15. Davide Valsecchi Epsilon Euskadi 1:37.505 + 1.360 16. Salvador Duran Interwetten.com 1:37.457 + 1.312 17. Richard Philippe Fortec Motorsport 1:37.539 + 1.394 18. Benjamin Hanley Prema Powerteam 1:37.645 + 1.500 19. P.Di Sabatino GD Racing 1:37.706 + 1.561 20. Ricardo Risatti GD Racing 1:37.717 + 1.572 21. Alejandro Nunez Red Devil Team Comtec 1:37.941 + 1.796 22. Miguel Molina Pons Racing 1:37.762 + 1.617 23. A.Ciompi EuroInternational 1:38.635 + 2.490 24. Celso Miguez EuroInternational 1:37.803 + 1.658 25. Daniel Move Interwetten.com 1:38.810 + 2.665 26. Jaap van Lagen Red Devil Team Comtec 1:38.184 + 2.039 27. Xavier Maassen Prema Powerteam 1:38.959 + 2.814 28. James Walker Fortec Motorsport 1:43.356 + 7.211 29. Pippa Mann Cram Competition 1:39.066 + 2.921 30. Julien Jousse Tech 1 Racing 1:36.715 Penalty
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