Briton Darren Manning continued to set the pace at Macau as he dominated opening qualifying to end the day more than one second quicker than his nearest rival. The TOM'S driver, who was fastest in the morning's free practice session, was on pole for most of the incident filled session.

"We like that," he said. "The car is working well and we didn't use any new tyres in that session. I have found a really good rhythm and, despite clipping a barrier on the exit of the hairpin on one of my laps, I had no problems at all. We will just fine-tune the car now."

Opel BSR team-mates Andre Couto and Christijan Albers were second and third quickest respectively after mixed fortunes during the day. Couto lost track time with a tyre problem early in qualifying, while Albers had to concentrate on setting his car up after losing track time in free practice with a gearbox problem.

"I am still not happy with my car and I have still got a lot of work to do," said Albers, the German Formula Three Champion. "It is going to be very difficult to match Manning's time but if we can get under a one minute 15 second lap then I will be very happy."

The session had to be red-flagged after a collision between Italian Gabriele Varano and local driver Michael Ho. Varano had spun in the middle of the track at Paiol and was unsighted by Ho, who could do nothing to prevent an accident. Both cars were badly damaged but neither driver was injured.

Walter van Lent, Juan Manuel Lopez, Toby Scheckter and Seiji Ara were other drivers who crashed during the session.

Briton Jenson Button was the leading rookie driver as he ended the session seventh overall. "It's going well," said the Promatecme driver. "In the morning session I was being cautious and I've pushed harder and harder with each lap. I've still not found my limit."

Indian Narain Karthikeyan admitted that he still had a lot of room for improvement after setting the ninth fastest time for his Paul Stewart Racing team. "It's okay," he said. "We have to fine tune the car and I have to push a bit harder, but I don't want to push too hard and end up in the wall."