Matheo Tuscher claimed pole in a thrilling wet/dry qualifying session for the penultimate round of the 2012 Formula 2 championship at Monza.
His time of 1m45.536s was two tenths of a second faster than title favourite Luciano Bacheta, who will therefore share the front row with his principle challenger.
Both felt they could have gone faster but encountered problems with traffic. Tuscher was incensed by what he perceived to be a block from Mihai Marinescu on his best lap, while Bacheta spun into the second chicane attempting to overtake a slower car.
The session started on a damp but drying track with the field split over tyre choice. Of those who went with slicks Dino Zamparelli and Axcil Jefferies shone and both seemed set to contest pole, as those who made a mid-session switch from wets struggled to warm their tyres.
By the flag however they had dropped to fifth and eighth respectively.
That owed something to an accident from Max Snegirev at the first Lesmo with six minutes remaining, which prompted the red flag as the Russian's car was stranded in a vulnerable position.
The session consequently was turned into a three-lap shoot out for pole where Tuscher and Bacheta prevailed.
Third went to Kevin Mirocha, while Christopher Zanella took fourth after bravely deciding to sit out much of the session.
The other driver who could mathematically claim the title this weekend - Markus Pommer - was the last of the field to switch to slicks and could only finish 10th, giving him a lot to do in the race.
Pos Driver Time Gap 1. Matheo Tuscher 1m45.536s 2. Luciano Bacheta 1m45.732s + 0.196s 3. Kevin Mirocha 1m45.984s + 0.448s 4. Christopher Zanella 1m46.035s + 0.499s 5. Dino Zamparelli 1m46.173s + 0.637s 6. Alex Fontana 1m46.232s + 0.696s 7. Mihai Marinescu 1m46.269s + 0.733s 8. Axcil Jefferies 1m46.473s + 0.937s 9. Harald Schlegelmilch 1m46.970s + 1.434s 10. Markus Pommer 1m47.159s + 1.623s 11. Hector Hurst 1m47.639s + 2.103s 12. Daniel McKenzie 1m48.311s + 2.775s 13. David Zhu 1m48.749s + 3.213s 14. Maxim Snegirev 1m51.577s + 6.041s 15. Plamen Kralev 1m51.616s + 6.080s
Autosport has produced a standalone special magazine to celebrate our 70th birthday. All current print subscribers will receive a copy for free. To order your copy of the 196-page Autosport 70th Anniversary issue, please go to: autosport.com/autosport70th