Nick Yelloly grabbed pole position for the first Formula Renault 3.5 race at Paul Ricard in a wet qualifying session.
The Briton - often a star in wet conditions - snatched top spot from early pacesetter and championship leader Robin Frijns around the halfway mark, just as the majority of the field decided to dive into the pits for new tires.
But as conditions started to dry out following an early morning thunderstorm - which delayed the start of the session and caused a 20-minute stoppage shortly after things kicked off - laptimes dropped away as the track became greasy.
The majority of drivers were lapping around two seconds off their best from their first runs, which had taken place with a lot more standing water on the track.
That left Comtec driver Yelloly safe in pole position, with Fortec's Frijns alongside for the first race of a weekend where he can seal the championship if he can build a big enough gap over pursuers Jules Bianchi and Sam Bird.
Bianchi is within striking distance, as he will start from the second row for Tech 1. The Ferrari junior was the first to dive into the pits for a second set of tires, and that enabled Arden Caterham's Antonio Felix da Costa to demote him from third to fourth.
But Bird has a lot of work to do in Saturday's opening race of the weekend. The Briton was briefly third behind Frijns and Bianchi after just 10 minutes of qualifying, but while his rivals continued to fight at the front, Bird slipped to 16th.
Further up the order, Andre Negrao and Alexander Rossi made up the third row of the grid. Marco Sorensen took seventh, and was the only driver towards the front of the field to improve in the closing minutes.
Behind eighth placed Arthur Pic is an all-Russian fifth row, made up of category veterans Mikhail Aleshin and Daniil Move.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Nick Yelloly Comtec 2m09.593s
2. Robin Frijns Fortec 2m09.715s + 0.122s
3. Antonio Frijns da Costa Arden Caterham 2m09.990s + 0.397s
4. Jules Bianchi Tech 1 2m10.006s + 0.413s
5. Andre Negrao Draco 2m10.225s + 0.632s
6. Alexander Rossi Arden Caterham 2m10.307s + 0.714s
7. Marco Sorensen Lotus 2m10.307s + 0.714s
8. Arthur Pic DAMS 2m10.384s + 0.791s
9. Mikhail Aleshin RFR 2m10.410s + 0.817s
10. Daniil Move P1 2m10.472s + 0.879s
11. Vittorio Ghirelli Comtec 2m10.646s + 1.053s
12. Nico Muller Draco 2m10.726s + 1.133s
13. Kevin Magnussen Carlin 2m10.891s + 1.298s
14. Carlos Huertas Fortec 2m10.906s + 1.313s
15. Kevin Korjus Lotus 2m11.050s + 1.457s
16. Sam Bird ISR 2m11.118s + 1.525s
17. Walter Grubmuller P1 2m11.274s + 1.681s
18. Will Stevens Carlin 2m11.297s + 1.704s
19. Jake Rosenzweig ISR 2m11.528s + 1.935s
20. Daniel Abt Tech 1 2m11.629s + 2.036s
21. Davide Rigon BVM Target 2m11.689s + 2.096s
22. Lucas Foresti DAMS 2m11.896s + 2.303s
23. Nikolay Martsenko BVM Target 2m12.235s + 2.642s
24. Aaro Vainio RFR 2m12.241s + 2.648s
25. Zoel Amberg Pons 2m12.447s + 2.854s
26. Yann Cunha Pons 2m12.640s + 3.047s