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MagnyCours: Series qualifying report

Superleague Formula by Sonangol league leaders Tottenham Hotspur will start tomorrow's first race at Magny-Cours on pole position after a thrilling pole shoot-out at the French circuit on Saturday afternoon. Craig Dolby produced a comeback...

Superleague Formula by Sonangol league leaders Tottenham Hotspur will start tomorrow's first race at Magny-Cours on pole position after a thrilling pole shoot-out at the French circuit on Saturday afternoon.

Craig Dolby produced a comeback victory for the English Premier League club to pip Milan star Yelmer Buurman to the top spot after the Dutch driver had gone faster in the first two sectors of the 4.411km circuit in the final. But Dolby, who had been fastest of all in the group stages of qualifying, hit back in sector 3 to grab the top spot and take his first-ever Superleague Formula pole shootout victory by just 0.222 seconds.

Olympiacos' Chris van der Drift and FC Basel's Max Wissel will start on the second row of the grid after being beaten in the semi finals. Series' rookie van der Drift continued the fine recent form which saw him net race 2 victory in Assen last weekend to beat FC Porto's Alvaro Parente in his quarter final before going out to Spurs, while Wissel's clash with AC Milan ended with the FC Basel car coasting off the circuit with a suspected engine problem after crossing the start/finish line.

Davide Rigon, who took pole position and won twice for RSC Anderlecht in Assen, got no further than the quarter finals this time around as the Belgian club lost to FC Basel, while Chinese club Beijing Guoan made its first appearance in the knockout stages since returning to Superleague Formula this season, before its driver, John Martin, was beaten by Buurman.

The big clash of the QF's came between Spurs and Olympique Lyonnais, represented by Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais. Dolby was trailing the home favourite through the first two sectors, but pulled off another fine recovery in the final few corners to defeat the ex-F1 driver by less than one tenth of a second

In the group stages Brazilian clubs Flamengo (Franck Perera) and Corinthians (Robert Doornbos) joined home favourites Bordeaux (Franck Montagny) and reigning champions Liverpool (James Walker) as the big names to miss the cut in the toughest section, Group B.

The biggest casualty in Group A was Sevilla. The La Liga club, which currently lies seventh in the Superleague Formula table, didn't set a time as Marcos Martinez crashed at the fast Imola chicane on his first flying lap.

AS Roma's Julien Jousse was the most frustrated of all 17 drivers after qualifying. The Frenchman, looking to impress for the Serie A giants at his home track, had topped Group A with a time of 1:27.232 but saw that effort disallowed as it was set under yellow flags following Martinez's accident. His second best effort was not good enough to qualify for the knockout stages meaning he went out. Bourdais' best time was also disallowed for the same reason, but his next best effort saw him scrape through to the quarter finals, only to be knocked out immediately by Spurs.

Driver quotes:

Craig Dolby, Tottenham Hotspur: "I've never been a strong qualifier in Superleague Formula but I've been working hard with the team on it and so to pull this lap out is fantastic. Finally it has all come together and it's a wicked feeling. The races are a different proposition and are always very difficult, but we'll just go out there and see what happens."

Yelmer Buurman, AC Milan: "In one way it is great to be on the front row, but you always want to be the best and get the pole. We had the speed to do it this weekend so it's a little bit disappointing to miss out, but I had a problem with my rear brakes locking in the Super Final. It first happened after the second chicane and then again at the last corner. The car went wide both times and the chance was gone."

Chris van der Drift, Olympiacos: "We're working hard every weekend to keep improving and the progress we're making is good. I'm learning the car more and how the first part of qualifying works and we keep getting better. Tomorrow's race is about getting points and trying to get through to the Super Final at the end."

Max Wissel, FC Basel: "I don't know exactly what has happened (to the car). I was pushing through the first sector and close to Yelmer but then on the straight we had a problem and the oil pressure went up and down and the team told me to stop pushing. Now it is important for us to be ready for tomorrow so we can score some more points for the championship."

-source: superleague

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Series SF
Drivers Davide Rigon , Sébastien Bourdais , Robert Doornbos , James Walker , Marcos Martinez , Julien Jousse , Yelmer Buurman , Chris van der Drift , John Martin , Max Wissel , Craig Dolby , Franck Perera