Webber beats off Wilson's challenge for pole

Mark Webber, who has slipped to fourth in the points race after a string of poor results, was quickest in qualifying for the Monaco round of the FIA Formula 3000 Championship today (Friday), despite ditching his car in the barrier near the end of the second session

Webber beats off Wilson's challenge for pole

Webber lapped his Super Nova car around the Principality in 1m29.643s, 0.178secs quicker than Wilson, who leads the championship after wins at Interlagos and the A1-Ring. The Australian stayed at the top of the times even though he was one of many drivers to crash heavily at the Rascasse in a bid to improve his time.

"I was on a good lap but just left my braking a bit too late and I tagged the barrier," said Webber. "Still, it's fantastic to be back on top of a frustrating couple of races. It has been difficult combining racing in F3000 with Formula 1 testing [for Benetton]."

Wilson said: "It could have been a bit better for me, but the yellow flags were very frustrating. The race is going to be very physical, because the heat that builds up in the car makes it hard."

A last lap flyer from Darren Manning yielded a third place starting slot on the grid, which is much more attractive than the ninth place he held for much of the session for Arden Team Russia. He is joined on the second row by F3000 returnee Stephane Sarrazin's Prost Junior Team car.

"We had a gearbox problem at the start of the second session," said Manning. "It just refused to go into gear. It was fortunate there was a red flag, because it gave us chance to fix it and the boys did a really good job to get me out again. I managed to find a clear run right at the end."

Sebastien Bordais was next up for DAMS, ahead of Patrick Friesacher (Red Bull) and Ricardo Sperafico (Petrobras). Ricardo Mauricio (Red Bull) was eighth, ahead of Tomas Enge (Nordic) although both took a taste of the Rascasse tyrewall.

Others to crash at Rascasse included Jamie Melo (Durango), who stopped the session when his car blocked the track, and Derek Hill (DAMS). Usual frontrunner Antonio Pizzonia appeared to use the Sainte Devote escape road on more occasions than he successfully negotiated the corner on his way to a disappointing 15th. At least he didn't damage his car there, though, unlike third in the championship Bas Leinders, who removed a corner from his KTR machine near the end of the session and ended up 13th.

Webber's Super Nova team mate Mario Haberfeld had an eventful session. He was forced to swerve to avoid an errant pigeon in the opening session, then collided with Joel Camathias in the second at Portier.

For qualifying results, click here.

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