Qualifying for the European Touring Car Championship race at Donington Park turned into an internal squabble for the works Alfa Romeo drivers, with Nicola Larini stealing pole from team-mate Gabriele Tarquini with under five minutes of the session remaining
After trading times for much of the session, the two Alfas were split by just 0.060s come the final reckoning, although championship leader Tarquini was hampered in his efforts by having to run with 30kg of success ballast.
"I enjoyed the fight with Gabriele," said Larini, "and I'm very happy I managed to steal the pole from him. This is a good start for the weekend, but I'm really focussing on tomorrow's races, because I need to win to maintain my chances for the championship."
Dirk Muller was the first of the BMW's to qualify in third, ahead of reigning champion Fabrizio Giovanardi and the third Alfa of Roberto Colciago. BMW's Antonio Garcia set the sixth fastest time, ahead of Fabio Francia.
Briton Andy Priaulx was a disappointed eighth in his BMW Team Great Britain entry, after being hampered by the success ballast that was his reward for winning the last round of the championship.
"To be honest I half expected this result," admitted Priaulx. "We did some testing last week, in which we saw we have problems with the ballast. I'm quite confident anyway, because maybe the reverse grid might help me in the second race. We will do our best under the circumstances and I think I can be faster tomorrow."
Nicola Larini Alfa Romeo 156 1m40.463s Gabriele Tarquini Alfa Romeo 156 1m40.523s Dirk Muller BMW 320i 1m40.858s Fabrizio Giovanardi BMW 320i 1m40.935s Roberto Colciago Alfa Romeo 156 1m40.974s Antonio Garcia BMW 320i 1m41.321s Fabio Francia Alfa Romeo 156 1m41.338s Andy Priaulx BMW 320i 1m41.371s
JAS Motorsport's Alessandro Mariani says he was "amazed" by Alexander Murdzevski Schedvin's suggestion that Volvo's structure compared to Honda was key to its 2017 World Touring Car Championship success
Volvo gave the World Touring Car Championship a major boost when it announced it would enter the series, but its ambitions don't stop there. JACK COZENS examines its programme, the S60 and what its arrival means for the WTCC
The 2012 World Touring Car champion says he never had the money to race cars. Yet 2015 is his 11th season in the WTCC. He talks STUART CODLING through his journey from motorsport fan to paid professional - for little more than £100,000