Fabio Leimer qualified on pole position for today's opening race of the International Formula Master season at Pau.
The Swiss driver, who finished runner-up in last year's championship, set an impressive 1m11.736s benchmark and only Josef Kral could get within seven tenths of it.
"Today was quite hard, I only really had one lap to qualify with because all the others were affected by yellow flags," said Leimer. "It's frustrating because I know I could have gone another half a second faster if I could have really pushed."
Those hoping to unseat Leimer from the top spot with their last laps of the session were denied the opportunity when Alessandro Kouzkin crashed and brought out the red flags with one minute remaining.
Kral will start alongside Leimer on the front row, with Vladimir Arabadzhiev and reigning Formula Renault Italy champion Pal Varhaug will share the second row.
Jonathan Kennard qualified fifth following his last minute call up to Team JVA, while fellow series newcomer Duncan Tappy will start 15th.
Earl Bamber's hopes of a strong debut were dashed when he damaged his rear suspension on one of Pau's brutal kerbs and the New Zealander was a spectator for most of the session, completing just four laps.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Fabio Leimer Jenzer 1m11.736s
2. Josef Kral JD 1m12.122s +0.386
3. Vladimir Arabadzhiev JD 1m12.474s +0.738
4. Pal Varhaug Jenzer 1m12.506s +0.770
5. Jonathan Kennard JVA 1m12.559s +0.823
6. Alessandro Kouzkin Cram 1m12.647s +0.911
7. Patrick Reiterer Iris 1m12.653s +0.917
8. Alexander Rossi Hitech 1m12.748s +1.012
9. Sergey Afanasiev JD 1m12.813s +1.077
10. Marcello Puglisi ADM 1m12.861s +1.125
11. Kasper Andersen Hitech 1m12.966s +1.230
12. Harald Schlegelmilch Cram 1m13.060s +1.324
13. Frankie Provenzano Trident 1m13.354s +1.618
14. Dennis Retera AR 1m13.924s +2.188
15. Duncan Tappy JVA 1m13.944s +2.208
16. Kelvin Snoeks AR 1m14.296s +2.560
17. Simon Trummer Iris 1m15.168s +3.432
18. Earl Bamber ADM 1m17.794s +6.058