Tristan Gommendy of the combined France/Bordeaux team beat New Zealand's Earl Bamber to the first pole position of the new-look Superleague Formula Nations Cup at Assen in Holland.
In the head-to-head shoot-out final, Gommendy was first across the line on a 1m26.313s, but Bamber could only manage a 1m26.745s, which was 0.432sec slower. Bamber was actually a tenth up at first sector, but Gommendy was quicker at the second split by 0.2sec and rammed home his advantage in the final sector.
"That was amazing," said an emotional Gommendy. "I haven't driven for seven months. The deal was done two days ago. A big, big thank you to Wim [Coekelbergs, his Azerti team owner] to put me in the car. It was a big risk for him. I'm not surprised to be on pole, but the circumstances make it special."
Bamber said: "It was really entertaining, and I've never made the super final before. The car wasn't looking too flash 10 days ago, but the guys have made it beautiful now. To start from the front row is awesome."
In the semi-final stage, Gommendy beat Antonio Pizzonia (Brazil) by 1.135sec. Bamber defeated local hero Robert Doornbos (Netherlands) by the much narrower margin of 0.123sec.
In the quarter-finals, Pizzonia beat Yelmer Buurman (Netherlands/PSV), who was fastest in the second group session, after the Dutchman locked up and ran wide at Turn 2. Gommendy defeated Frederic Vervisch (Luxembourg) by well over a second after the Belgian suffered a big understeer moment. Bamber bettered Andy Soucek (Turkey/Galatasaray) by half a second.
Doornbos beat Jani (Belgium/Anderlecht), who topped Group A, by almost a quarter of a second. "I lost too much grip on used tires, but it was my first shootout, so I need to learn from this," said Jani.
The big news of the group sessions was the failure of both pre-event favorites Craig Dolby (England) and John Martin (Australia) to progress to the knock-out rounds. They will start ninth and 10th respectively on Sunday.