Max Wissel scored pole position for FC Basel in the opening round of Superleague Formula 2010, the 20-year-old German beating Alvaro Parente of Porto in the head-to-head shootout final at Silverstone.
In damp conditions and on wet tires, Parente was up by a tenth in sector one, but lost almost 0.8sec in sector two as the single-lap qualifying format reached its crescendo. Despite Wissel suffered a big oversteer moment at Club Corner, he hung on by 0.419sec with a lap of 1:43.282s to score the first pole of his Superleague career.
"It was fantastic," said Wissel of his lap. "I had to learn the track this weekend, which has been tricky because of the weather conditions, but the car is really good in the wet. I'm hoping it stays wet for tomorrow too."
Parente said: "It was gonna be a close one, but I made a small mistake in sector two, otherwise it would have been close for pole. Even though I missed out on pole, I think we're looking good for tomorrow."
Wissel won the first semi, much to the dismay of the Tottenham fans present as he defeated Spurs racer Craig Dolby. Wissel was 0.3sec down after the first sector, but turned that around in the middle sector and held a 0.388s advantage at the finish line.
There was more misery for the Premier League in the second semi, as Parente laid waste to James Walker of Liverpool. The Portuguese was already half a second up in the first sector and extended his margin despite a big slide at Brooklands. He won by 0.828sec.
The rain had arrived just before the head-to-head quarter-finals, spicing up the action like it had in Malaysia a few hours earlier for Formula 1. First into the fray was Wissel, who inflicted a surprise defeat on Sebastien Bourdais (Lyon) by 0.706sec. Bourdais, quickest in the second group session, had a big twitch on the curb exiting Copse and never regained the time he lost in the first sector. Wissel, who had only just made it through Group A, had claimed a big scalp.
Parente beat AC Milan's Yelmer Buurman in the second quarter, Buurman also suffered a twitch at the beginning of his lap at Copse. Parente was up in sector one and increased that in sector two despite running very wide exiting Club. He was over a second faster at the conclusion of the 3.194-mile lap.
Walker beat Sevilla's Marcos Martinez in quarter-final three, despite the fact the Spaniard held a 0.4sec advantage in sector one. He then ran wide entering Club Corner and lost 0.7s by the sector-two timing beam, with Walker now 0.3sec ahead. The eventual gap between them was 0.9sec, but their lap times were much slower than those that had gone before, indicating that conditions had deteriorated.
Dolby then blew that theory out of the water, setting the fastest time of the knock-out of 1m46.499s and beating Duncan Tappy's Galatasaray entry by 1.9sec, with 1.3sec of that advantage being accrued in the first sector through Copse, Maggotts and Becketts where he visibly caught Tappy's car as he chased him down.
Parente topped the first of the group sessions, both of which were held in dry conditions. Parente's 1:34.885s beat early pace-setter Dolby by 0.365sec. Walker and Wissel also made it through, with the first to miss out Olympiacos's Chris van der Drift by 0.182sec.
Also out was newcomer Narain Karthikeyan (PSV Eindhoven), the ex-F1 man admitting it "wasn't what he expected", while returnee Robert Doornbos brought up the rear in the Corinthians entry, complaining of a lack of power and brakes.
Bourdais was fastest in Group B, lapping in 1:34.722s – the fastest of the weekend so far. Martinez was quickest early on, but his best effort 0.234sec shy of what Bourdais managed minutes later. Martinez also had quick offs at Stowe and Copse as he tried in vain to retaliate.
Tappy and Buurman also made it through to the knock-out phase, as Tristan Gommendy missed out by 0.34sec for Galatasary. Newcomer Franck Montagny (Bordeaux) was only seventh fastest, as he struggled with a lack of dry running time.
The first few spots of rain fell in the final seconds, catching out Davide Rigon, who spun his Anderlecht car into the Abbey gravel after having already rotated exiting Priory a lap earlier.