Ryan Hunter-Reay will start Sunday's IndyCar race on the Sao Paulo street circuit from pole position after coming out on top from an eventful qualifying session. The reigning champion broke Will Power's track record with his 1m20.4312s effort, which left him 0.3 second clear of Andretti teammate EJ Viso.
"I gave it everything I had, and it's great to get the DHL Chevrolet up front again and on pole," enthused Hunter-Reay. "That's three of the four races this year that we've been on the front row and twice on pole. I'm so happy for the guys and everything they've done for me.
"Tomorrow's the challenge, though. We thought we had a good car at Long Beach, and once we got into the race, I knew we were challenged and would be for the rest of the day. We need to make sure we've fixed those things this time and go out and have a great race. Starting on pole here is a challenge because you are a sitting duck out front on the long straights."
The front-row start was a morale-booster, admitted Viso.
"I'm definitely feeling much better after today's qualifying," said the Venezualan. "To be starting on this track on the front row is great. I'm very grateful for the great car that team gave me today and I have a lot of faith in them that tomorrow we are going to have a good car in the race that is going to stay and keep that pace."
Dario Franchitti was third fastest alongside Tony Kanaan, who did a superb job to get himself on the second row considering that he is still feeling the effects of a hand tendon injury sustained at Long Beach.
"We had a great car from the get go, but there was no way I could beat those guys that had sticker reds during the Fast Six," reckoned Kanaan. "It was a disadvantage not having the new Firestones, but you know, they got it by luck because of how their qualifying group went on.
"I'm happy. This is my home race, we have the fans cheering and the backing from my local sponsor. Starting in fourth in a street course is not bad at all and I think it's going to be weird seeing just three cars in front of me at the start!"
James Hinchcliffe was fifth fastest, giving Andretti three cars in the top six, with Scott Dixon set to line up alongside him.
Hunter-Reay's pole aside, the story of the session was the disaster at Penske, which had both Power and Helio Castroneves eliminated in the opening phase.
The pair had not yet banked a lap when James Jakes's car broke down on the circuit and brought out the red flags, leaving Power facing the prospect of having to win from 22nd on the grid if he is to keep his perfect record in Brazil intact.
"Today was very frustrating – we try to not leave the last minute to get caught in one of those situations but unfortunately, today was our turn," rued Castroneves. "It was a very unusual scenario and I hate it for the entire team because the Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet was running really well, especially in the practices earlier today. I'm shocked about our result, but we never say never and will give it all we have tomorrow."
Tristan Vautier's tough start to the weekend continued when he completed an unfortunate hat-trick of hitting the wall in three consecutive sessions. On this occasion, his downfall came when he launched himself over the Turn 1 kerb and went straight into the Turn 2 wall during the first segment. That brought out the red flag a few seconds early, costing several drivers including Oriol Servia the chance to complete their final flying lap.
Vautier was docked his two best laps for causing the stoppage, and the next qualifying phase was briefly delayed while the barrier was repaired. The Frenchman is the only driver on this year's grid to have never raced in Sao Paulo previously.
His accident had a knock-on effect for teammate Simon Pagenaud, who faces the same consequences as the Penske pair for not getting a lap in early.
Sarah Fisher Hartman's Josef Newgarden was forced to sit the session out due to an engine change.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m20.4312s
2. EJ Viso Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m20.7380s + 0.3068s
3. Dario Franchitti Ganassi Dallara-Honda 1m20.8922s + 0.4610s
4. Tony Kanaan KV Dallara-Chevy 1m20.9812s + 0.5500s
5. James Hinchcliffe Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m20.9893s + 0.5581s
6. Scott Dixon Ganassi Dallara-Honda 1m21.1183s + 0.6871s
7. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon Dallara-Chevy 1m20.8210s Round 2
8. Simona de Silvestro KV Dallara-Chevy 1m20.9390s Round 2
9. Justin Wilson Coyne Dallara-Honda 1m21.0570s Round 2
10. Marco Andretti Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m21.1716s Round 2
11. JR Hildebrand Panther Dallara-Chevy 1m21.2961s Round 2
12. Takuma Sato Foyt Dallara-Honda 1m21.3618s Round 2
13. Oriol Servia Panther DRR Dallara-Chevy 1m21.7963s Group 1
14. Ed Carpenter Carpenter Dallara-Chevy 1m24.0203s Group 2
15. Alex Tagliani Herta Dallara-Honda 1m21.8636s Group 1
16. Ana Beatriz Coyne Dallara-Honda 1m24.8864s Group 2
17. Charlie Kimball Ganassi Dallara-Honda 1m22.2482s Group 1
18. Helio Castroneves Penske Dallara-Chevy 1m25.1734s Group 2
19. Graham Rahal Rahal Dallara-Honda 1m22.2998s Group 1
20. Sebastian Saavedra Dragon Dallara-Chevy Group 2
21. Tristan Vautier Schmidt Dallara-Honda Group 1
22. Will Power Penske Dallara-Chevy Group 2
23. Josef Newgarden Fisher Dallara-Honda Group 1
24. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt Dallara-Honda Group 2
25. James Jakes Rahal Dallara-Honda Group 2