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Ordos: Series qualifying report

Hanley takes stunning Ordos pole Ben Hanley (Olympiacos) marked his return to the Superleague Formula by Sonangol grid with a stunning performance in qualifying to take pole position for this weekend's first race at the Ordos ...

Hanley takes stunning Ordos pole

Ben Hanley (Olympiacos) marked his return to the Superleague Formula by Sonangol grid with a stunning performance in qualifying to take pole position for this weekend's first race at the Ordos International Circuit.

The Briton, signed by the Greek giants as a replacement for the injured Chris van der Drift for last month's round at Adria, demonstrated his ability by making the semi-finals and taking fourth on the grid at the Italian circuit, but missed the recent trip to Portimao due to a clashing commitment.

His eagerly-anticipated return in China couldn't have been more impressive as the 25-year-old came from behind to beat John Martin (Beijing Guoan) in the final by over a second having trailed in both the first two sectors.

In fact last-gasp speed was a feature of Hanley's performance throughout qualifying. His final flying lap as time ran out in the group stages saw him sneak into the top four in Group B and he then came from behind to defeat Robert Doornbos (Corinthians) and Andy Soucek (Flamengo) in the knockouts before his win over Martin.

Martin meanwhile continued his incredible run of form by making it through to his fourth consecutive final, thus ensuring a front-row start for Beijing Guoan on home soil. The Australian topped his qualifying group before beating Max Wissel (FC Basel) and Franck Perera (Bordeaux) in the quarter and semi-finals respectively.

Perera will start third after an excellent return to the series with the French club, while Soucek, who set the fastest time of anyone during qualifying with a best lap of 1:29.591 in the group phase before falling to Hanley, is fifth.

Losing quarter-finalists Doornbos, Frederic Vervisch (Liverpool), Wissel and debutant Earl Bamber (FC Porto) will line-up in that order on rows 3 and 4.

As well as securing pole position, Hanley has significantly boosted Olympiacos' title hopes as three of the four drivers above them in the standings failed to survive the group stages.

Series leader Davide Rigon (RSC Anderlecht) was perhaps the most unfortunate as Hanley's superb last ditch lap saw the Italian knocked out of the top four in Group B by just one tenth of a second.

In Group A Craig Dolby (Tottenham Hotspur) and Yelmer Buurman (AC Milan), both of whom suffered technical problems in free practice, went out, while Marcos Martinez (Sevilla) and reigning champion Adrian Valles (Sporting Lisbon) joined Rigon in being eliminated from Group B despite having set times good enough to top Group A.

The result means that the grid for tomorrow's opening race will see Rigon and Dolby paired together on row 5, with Buurman lining up directly behind the Spurs man in 12th.

Ben Hanley (Olympiacos): "I'm really delighted. We had a few problems in practice but the team did a great job and we've now got a well balanced car. John (Martin) made a mistake in the last corner of the final so I really pushed and managed to get pole. Tomorrow it's important to score as many points as we can so we can close in on the four clubs above us."

John Martin (Beijing Guoan): "Unfortunately I made a mistake in the final corner, but it's a fourth consecutive front row start so I have to be pleased with that! The team has been outstanding again and the car has been quick all morning. I really like the circuit. The first part is quite slow and technical but the last sector is really quick. Hopefully we can win the race tomorrow to give the Beijing Guoan fans something to cheer about!"

Franck Perera (Bordeaux): "We had a very difficult night as we stayed at the track and worked all the way through without sleeping. So I'm very pleased with this result and everybody on the team has done a very good job. Unfortunately I had a small brake problem in the semi-final so I couldn't fight to make it through, but anything can happen tomorrow."

Andy Soucek (Flamengo): "I'm disappointed to be honest. I was nearly half-a-second quicker than anyone in my group and then I won my quarter-final by three seconds! But then I made a big mistake in the last sector of the semi-final and that cost me a place in the final. I believe I could have had pole today, but the good news is that we've got the pace and we're consistent which bodes well for the race."

-source: superleagueformula.com

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Series SF
Drivers Davide Rigon , Robert Doornbos , Adrian Valles , Marcos Martinez , Yelmer Buurman , Andy Soucek , Chris van der Drift , Frederic Vervisch , John Martin , Earl Bamber , Ben Hanley , Max Wissel , Craig Dolby , Franck Perera