Parente and Jousse on the front row
Tech 1 Racing pulled off a double whammy in this morning's qualifying session. After Julien Jousse had clocked the best time in the first group, Alvaro Parente then claimed his third pole position of the season. Miguel Molina (Pons Racing) and Ben Hanley (Prema Powerteam) will start from the second row of the grid.
On the first run, Julien Jousse (Tech 1 Racing) was the first driver to get into his stride. Mikhail Aleshin (Carlin Motorsport) went into a spin, but the Frenchman was not hindered and was the first to dip under the 1'27'' mark. Hanley then snatched the lead from the Tech 1 driver with a time of 1'26''719. More than half a second slower, Mikhail Aleshin was lying in third place, ahead of Alvaro Barba and Marco Bonanomi (RC Motorsport).
Barba was the first to put on fresh tyres. But Filipe Albuquerque (Epsilon Euskadi) and Clivio Piccione (RC Motorsport) were the drivers who came to the fore.
With five minutes to go, the top three were Aleshin, Barba and Walker (Fortec Motorsport). But then Hanley and Jousse hit back! The Englishman took the lead on his first flying lap, while the Frenchman slipped up in the third section. On the following lap, Jousse regained the lead with a time of 1'25''945! Hanley and Aleshin both improved again, but Jousse held firm and bettered his own time to secure a place on the front row of the grid with a lap timed at 1'25''762.
There were to be no further changes before the chequered flag, with Jousse, Hanley, Aleshin, Albuquerque and Barba making up the top five.
Continuing the French offensive, Guillaume Moreau (KTR) was getting close to the 1'27'' mark before his momentum was halted by the red flag: Pippa Mann (Cram Comp0x00e9tition) had stopped on the track due to a hydraulics problem.
The session resumed for a further 14 minutes. Most of the drivers -- with the notable exception of Parente -- took the opportunity to change their tyres. Guillaume Moreau reaped the benefit immediately, but was quickly outdone by Miguel Molina (Pons Racing). Giedo van der Garde (Victory Engineering) also threw his name into contention for pole position. Fauzy (Cram Comp0x00e9tition) led briefly, but Molina regained top spot with a time close to 1'26''.
After stopping off at the pits for his fresh set of tyres, Alvaro Parente finally stepped up a gear. With six minutes remaining, the championship leader snatched the lead with a time of 1'26''000! He went better still on the following lap, beating his teammate Julien Jousse's time in 1'25''742.
The only driver capable of beating Parente, Miguel Molina improved his times and kept fighting until the end. Unfortunately, the Catalan driver's final attempt was hindered by Valsecchi, and he had to settle for second place. Bertrand Baguette (KTR), Fairuz Fauzy and Giedo van der Garde completed the top five. Guillaume Moreau, who bore the brunt of the red flag, finished sixth.