Davide Rigon took a big step towards recording his second Superleague Formula title, this time for Anderlecht, by beating his old club Beijing Guoan to pole position in the 2010 series finale at Navarra in Spain.
In the head-to-head final, Rigon was faster than Beijing's John Martin through every split time to take pole by 0.261 second. Points leader Rigon could now wrap up the title in Sunday's first race at Navarra.
"It's fantastic," said Rigon. "Whenever it is me against Martin we are always over the limit. The car was working very well, I'm very happy, but there's a lot of points to be won tomorrow. But today, we showed how fast we are."
Martin said: "We've got a really good car on old tires, so I think we'll be looking good for the race. I've got nothing to lose, and I'll be racing for the win."
The first semi-final was a cracker, as Franck Perera (Bordeaux) outpaced Rigon in the first sector by 0.049sec, but Rigon reversed that to a 0.168sec advantage by the second split. Then Perera made a mistake in the final corners, and Rigon progressed by an inflated 1.2sec margin.
The second semi followed suit, as although Yelmer Buurman (AC Milan) was fastest at the first split by 0.085sec, Martin was quickest through the next two sectors and beat him by 0.451sec. Buurman will start third.
In the first quarter-final, Rigon beat outgoing champion Adrian Valles (Sporting Lisbon) by almost seven tenths of a second, despite outbraking himself slightly at Turn 6. In the second, Perera claimed a big scalp as he outpaced title protagonist Craig Dolby (Tottenham) by just 0.066sec.
Dolby, who is recovering from a flu-like illness, was ahead after sector one, but lost time in the middle section after a setup change worked against him. He will start fifth.
In the third quarter-final, Frederic Vervisch (Liverpool) could not hold a candle to Martin, whose 1m26.970s was the fastest time at this stage. In the last one, Buurman beat Atech-Reid teammate Alvaro Parente of Porto by 0.6sec.
Before the knock-out stages, Group A - dubbed the 'group of death' with four of the five title protagonists present - was topped by Rigon, ahead of a last-gasp effort by Martin (an early spinner) that put him into the knock-out rounds. That was at the expense of Tristan Gommendy (Lyon), but the big news was that title contenders Ben Hanley (Olympiacos) and Max Wissel (FC Basel) fell at this hurdle, along with local heroes Marcos Martinez (Sevilla) and Maria de Villota (Atletico Madrid).
Group B, which was a little anti-climactic by comparison, was topped by Parente ahead of Dolby, Vervisch and Soucek. Practice pacesetter Robert Doornbos (Corinthians) failed to get anywhere near his time from this morning, and missed out on progressing by 0.048sec.
Also out were Adrian Valles (Sporting Lisbon), series returnee Esteban Guerrieri (PSV Eindhoven) and new Roma driver, Maxi Cortes. Chris van der Drift (Galatasaray) did not take part in qualifying after his gearbox failed in practice.