Chris van der Drift scored his first ever pole position in Superleague Formula at Zolder in Belgium after a phenomenal performance in the head-to-head shoot-out final, beating former champion Davide Rigon by almost half a second.
Olympiacos driver van der Drift dipped into the 1m18s bracket to defeat the local Anderlecht car of Rigon by 0.411 seconds around the former grand prix venue, a sensational effort given the fact that his tires were getting less effective with each run.
"Finally! I'm ecstatic to get pole," said van der Drift. "The group session went well, and then I kept getting quicker and quicker, which I think was just me getting more and more out of the car."
Rigon said: "It's the home race for the club, so I'm happy to get to the final. It's a fantastic result for us today, and I think we'll be quick tomorrow too."
In the first semifinal, Rigon scraped through by 0.03sec, after giving away a tenth of a second to Robert Doornbos (Corinthians) in the first sector. He had reversed that to a 0.05sec advantage in sector two, and just held on to progress to the final.
"We're teammates, so we copied each other's set-ups," revealed Doornbos. "I ran a bit wide at Turn 1, and got a bit of dirt on the tires for Turns 2 and 3, but three hundredths over a lap is nothing. We had a pole position car."
In the second semi, van der Drift shaded Max Wissel (FC Basel) with a stellar lap that was almost two tenths of a second faster, the Kiwi beating the German in every sector of the lap.
In the first quarter final, Doornbos beat Marcos Martinez (Sevilla) with ease by over three quarters of a second. The second was a thriller, as van der Drift gave away two tenths in the first sector, but aced the remainder of the lap, and overturned the deficit into a 0.048sec advantage to knock out Yelmer Buurman (AC Milan), who appeared to slide at Bolderbergbocht, perhaps enough to make the difference.
Championship rivals Craig Dolby (Tottenham Hotspur) and Wissel went head-to-head in the third quarterfinal, and the contest did not disappoint. Wissel was up by 0.02sec in sector one, but Dolby turned that into a 0.075sec advantage in sector two, only for Wissel to strike back to win by 0.152sec after Dolby admitted he got too much wheelspin exiting Bolderbergbocht.
The final quarter was the most routine, as the ultra-smooth Rigon dispatched James Walker (Liverpool) by 0.841sec.
In the group stages, Doornbos topped the first session, despite a grassy moment on the exit of Turn 1, ahead of Wissel, Walker (who escaped a quick trip through the Turn 1 gravel) and Buurman. Out at this stage went Duncan Tappy, who spun the Flamengo car into the gravel at Bolderbergbocht.
This caused consternation among his fellow non-qualifiers, who could not improve their times, and who included series returnee Andy Soucek (Sporting Lisbon), Julien Jousse (Roma), Tristan Gommendy (Galatasaray) and Maria de Villota (Atletico Madrid).
In Group B, van der Drift headed the times from Rigon, Dolby and Martinez. Knocked out were John Martin (Beijing Guoan) - who had an on-track spat with Narain Karthikeyan (PSV Eindhoven) who also went out - as well as Alvaro Parente (Porto) and newcomer Jaap van Lagen (Bordeaux), the latter spinning off at Kanaalbocht right at the end of the session.