Despite missing the previous round due to visa paperwork issues, Alvaro Parente finally made it to China to set Superleague Formula pole position at the new Beijing International street circuit for FC Porto.
In the single-lap, head-to-head shootout final, Parente lapped in 1m05.287s to beat Craig Dolby of Tottenham Hotspur by 0.215sec.
Parente had outpaced Robert Doornbos (Corinthians) by exactly four tenths of a second in the first semi-final to make it through to the pole shootout. The second semi saw Dolby defeat Roma's Julien Jousse by six tenths after impressively dipping into the 1m04sec bracket.
In the quarter-finals, Parente outpaced series returnee Paul Meijer (Atletico Madrid) by a quarter of a second. Doornbos got an easy path to the semis when he was paired against Andy Soucek, who was unable to take part due to a big crash in his group session. After setting a fast enough time to progress already, Soucek clipped the tire wall as he entered final quick chicane, from where he was a passenger as his Flamengo car plowed into the wall on the pit straight.
Jousse defeated Franck Perera (Bordeaux) by just over a tenth of a second in the tense all-French clash that followed in the next quarter, while Dolby easily beat Tristan Gommendy (Lyon) by the much larger margin of almost a second in the other quarter-final.
Earlier, Dolby was fastest in Group A, ahead of Soucek, whose crash stopped the session early. Those to be knocked out at this stage were Giacomo Ricci (Galatasaray), Yelmer Buurman (AC Milan), Ben Hanley (Olympiacos), Frederic Vervisch (Liverpool), John Martin (Beijing Guoan) and Ordos hero Earl Bamber (PSV Eindhoven).
In Group B, there was also a red flag early on. Parente set the pace, and those to drop out included Marcos Martinez (Sevilla), who was squeezed out at the very last moment by just 0.032sec. Also out were reigning champion Adrian Valles (Sporting Lisbon), points leader Davide Rigon (Anderlecht), expected frontrunner Max Wissel (Basel) and Team China's Ma Qing Hua.
Sunday's races will be non-championship affairs. The threatened drivers' strike was resolved when a dispute with the race's promoters was settled this morning.