Despite missing the opening round of season four of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, and having precious little seat time, Danny Watts stormed to pole position for Team Great Britain at round two in China.

Watts will start Sunday's feature race at Chengdu from pole position, while Ireland's Adam Carroll also enjoyed a good day by putting the Irish car into top spot in qualifying for the corresponding sprint race.

The GP2 racewinner claimed Team Ireland's first ever A1GP pole with a lap of 1min 15.423secs around the bumpy - and still largely unfamiliar - Chengdu circuit, and will be joined on the front row for Sunday's shorter race by Team Netherland debutant Robert Doornbos, who put in a great lap to keep reigning champions Switzerland back in third.

Watts, meanwhile, raised his game to snatch pole for the feature race on his competitive debut for A1 Team Great Britain with a blistering lap in 1min 15.325secs. Carroll maintained his strong showing to claim the other front row spot, stopping the clocks just 0.0.03secs adrift of his rival in what proved to be an incredibly close-fought session. Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque produced a great run in the dying moments of the session to lift his distinctive green car into third.

"It feels great to get Ireland's first ever pole position and to make it a double front row start is even better," said a delighted Carroll, "It's quite a bumpy circuit so it's very important to put together a really clean lap.

"We were quick in final practice, but we didn't focus too much on lap times from there because we knew we would be quite a lot faster in qualifying with the new rubber. The times are so close and the drivers are of such quality that it feels great to be at the front. The new Powered by Ferrari car is extremely quick with huge levels of downforce and it has really suited the team and my driving so far."

In the first qualifying segment, Australia was first on track to get a banker lap because half the grid opted to wait for the final few minutes of the ten-minute session to record their times. With the dusty track making it difficult to judge how hard to push, many of the teams came out on track late in the hope of getting a clear run.

Switzerland's Neel Jani went out early in the first session, clocking a time of 1min 15.683secs, the quickest of the weekend at that point, but Doornbos jumped to the top of the timesheets as the seconds ticked away. However, even the former F1 and Champ Car driver's time wasn't enough to hold off the late charge from Ireland.

As the chequered flag came out, Italy's Edoardo Piscopo went into the gravel with to a broken wishbone and caused a lengthy delay. Such was the time taken to remove the car from the turn ten sandtrap - mainly due to 'a logistical problem' - that the second sprint race qualifying segment was cancelled, leaving Carroll's time of 1min 15.423secs enough to give the Irish squad its first ever A1GP pole.

As qualifying segment three, counting to the feature race, got underway, Indonesia was first to emerge before Marco Andretti, on his first weekend in the Team USA car, provisionally went quickest with a time of 1min 16.557secs. Brazil was next to head the grid but, in the final minutes, Switzerland, Netherlands, Great Britain and Ireland were all gunning for the top-spot.

Watts put in a fantastic lap of 1min 15.325secs just as the time ran out, while Switzerland provisionally moved into second - before again being pushed down, this time by a flying Carroll. Albuquerque also timed his final run just right, squeezing ahead of Jani to sit just 0.075secs from Watts.

The drivers were geared up for a thrilling session as they prepared to take to the track for the final qualifying segment of the day, but France's Nicolas Prost, on an extremely quick lap, went into the gravel and brought out the red flag. This time, there was only a short delay before the session restarted but, with none of the top three improving their times, and no-one else going quicker, the top four remained the same.

"I think it was nine days ago I found out that I was actually coming here," Watts pointed out, "so, to be sitting here now, in pole position for the feature race is really amazing.

"I think the credit's got to go to the team. They've had four hours sleep in the last two nights, working through the night just getting the car prepared and ready for practice yesterday. It's been an amazing few days. It's a new car for the team to get used to, a new driver in the car for Team GBR and, luckily, the whole package has come together really nicely."

Malaysia made a big improvement from 14th in sprint qualifying, posting a 1min 15.963secs lap, good enough for sixth behind South Africa for the feature, but home nation China's disappointing start to the weekend continued as Ho-Pin Tung will start 18th for the sprint race after only setting a time on old tyres due to the cancellation of qualifying two. The GP2 driver then made a mistake on both his runs in feature race qualifying, leaving him 17th on the grid.