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Fassler takes pole in Argentina

Phoenix Carsport Corvette driver Marcel Fassler has taken pole position for the FIA GT Championship's first round at the spectacular new San Luis track in Argentina

The Larbre Saleen will start from the outside of the front row, with points leaders Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini (Vitaphone Maserati) taking fourth on the grid - three places ahead of their title rivals Mike Hezemans and Fabrizio Gollin (Phoenix).

Fassler, who is sharing his car with local racer Ricardo Risatti this weekend, lapped in 2:13.236 to claim pole at the challenging new lakeside circuit, which has received hugely positive reviews from the drivers.

Until Fassler's final lap, it looked like Larbre's Frederic Makowiecki would repeat the pole position he scored on his only previous FIA series GT1 appearance at Dubai in 2006, but the French returnee lost out by 0.143 seconds.

The two Vitaphone cars will share row two, with Alexandre Negrao and Miguel Ramos starting ahead of their championship leading teammates Bartels and Bertolini, who only need to finish sixth tomorrow to clinch the crown. Their task already looks easier with Hezemans and Gollin - who need to finish in the top two - managing just seventh place, behind the PK Saleen and SRT Corvette.

Only nine GT1 cars will take the start, as the Gigawave Aston Martin has already been sidelined for the weekend following a practice crash for Allan Simonsen. With the JetAlliance team having elected not to make the trip, there will be no Astons in the field for tomorrow's race.

Local drivers Matias Russo and Luis Perez Companc earned GT2 pole in the Advanced Engineering Ferrari thanks to a brilliant lap from Russo in the class session.

The 23-year-old Argentine was twice pushed down from provisional pole to fifth place before surging back to the head of the order with a 2:19.066 in the closing moments. That edged Richard Westbrook and Emmanuel Collard's Prospeed Porsche back to second, Westbrook 0.247 seconds slower than the Ferrari.

Russo's GT2 pole was some consolation for the home crowd after a disastrous qualifying session for the local ACA Argentina Ferrari GT1 team. The Jose Maria Lopez/Esteban Tuero car had been second in final practice, but suffered mechanical problems early in qualifying, so will start at the back.

GT2 champions Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni will also be at the tail of the field in their AF Corse Ferrari, having failed to set a time after Vilander brushed the wall at Turn 6 on his first flying lap.

Pos  Cl   Qualifying driver     Car                 Time
 1.  GT1  Marcel Fassler        Corvette Z06        2:13.236
 2.  GT1  Frederic Mackowiecki  Saleen S7           2:13.379  + 0.143
 3.  GT1  Alexandre Negrao      Maserati MC 12      2:14.001  + 0.765
 4.  GT1  Andrea Bertolini      Maserati MC 12      2:14.542  + 1.306
 5.  GT1  Bert Longin           Saleen S7           2:14.765  + 1.529
 6.  GT1  Maxime Soulet         Corvette Z06        2:15.032  + 1.796
 7.  GT1  Mike Hezemans         Corvette Z06        2:15.569  + 2.333
 8.  GT1  Martin Basso          Ferrari 550         2:16.629  + 3.393
 9.  GT2  Matias Russo          Ferrari F430        2:19.066  + 5.830
10.  GT2  Richard Westbrook     Porsche 911 GT3 RS  2:19.313  + 6.077
11.  GT2  Tim Mullen            Ferrari F430        2:19.504  + 6.268
12.  GT2  Markus Palttala       Porsche 911 GT3 RS  2:19.606  + 6.370
13.  GT2  Andrew Kirkaldy       Ferrari F430        2:20.214  + 6.978
14.  GT2  Nicola Cadei          Ferrari F430        2:20.219  + 6.983
15.  GT2  Fabio Babini          Ferrari F430        2:20.396  + 7.160
16.  GT2  Matteo Malucelli      Ferrari F430        2:20.545  + 7.309
17.  GT2  Christian Montanari   Ferrari F430        2:20.717  + 7.481
18.  G2   Renaud Kuppens        Gillet Vertigo      2:22.101  + 8.865
19.  GT2  Jose Manuel Balbiani  Ferrari F430        2:22.379  + 9.143
20.  GT1  Jose Maria Lopez      Ferrari 550         2:48.017  + 34.781
21.  GT2  Toni Vilander         Ferrari F430

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