More than 20,000 spectators converged on the Zolder circuit to watch qualifying for the opening World Series by Renault event, and were treated to a pair of tight-fought sessions that eventually fell to series 'newcomers' Enrico Toccacelo and Will Power.
Power sat on provisional pole after eight minutes of the opening session, but was involved in a battle with Markus Winkelhock and Toccacelo, as the only three drivers to have gone faster than 1min 19secs at that stage. The rest of the field was a little slower to adapt to the Belgian circuit, with the Gilles Villeneuve chicane proving more than a handful for some, including Patrick Pilet and Milos Pavlovic.
As the session wore on, however, the series began to live up to its competitive reputation, with Robert Kubica moving up to third, and Ryo Fukuda and Tristan Gommendy settling into fifth and sixth. Winkelhock also improved on his time, moving up to second position - only for his lap to be ruled out because the yellow flag had been out at the time.
The session continued to evolve right to - and beyond - its untimely end, however, and, only eight seconds from the end, it was Power's Carlin team-mate Andreas Zuber who apparently had the pole, having lowered the target time to 1min 18.315secs. In the end, however, that proved insufficient, and Zuber was to be disappointed as Toccacelo had the final word with a lap of 1min 18.'066secs.
However, with Colin Fleming's Jenzer Motorsport car at a standstill on the edge of the track, the red flag was shown and the session was brought to an early halt as the situation escalated. Alx Danielsson pulled over to let another car through, but was unable to avoid the stranded American driver on the exit of the bend, resulting in a collision. Just a few seconds later, Stefano Proetto ran into the two stationery cars, leaving Danielsson in some pain. Although the medical team came to the Swede's assistance, he was ruled out of the rest of the meeting after being taken to hospital with a broken ankle.
There was also bad news for the Interwetten.com
team, as both Daniel la Rosa and Proetto proved unable to continue, as was the luckless Fleming.
For session two, the qualifying format was modified by the race director, who separated the cars into two groups with twelve minutes of track time each. In the odd-numbered series, Toccacelo once again reigned supreme with a lap of 1min 18.501secs.
"This morning, with 29 cars out on the track, it was difficult to get a clear lap in," Toccacelo admitted, "In the afternoon, however, the traffic was no longer a problem. The trouble then was how to set a good qualifying time in just twelve minutes."
The Italian driver headed his section from Adrian Valles and Gommendy, while Power put in the best time - a 1min 18.313secs effort - in the even-numbered group ahead of Jaap van Lagen and Kubica. As the Australian's time made part two the faster 'session', those drivers behind him would start on the pole position side of the grid.
"It wasn't easy to set a good time in just four or five laps, but it's been a good start to the weekend," Power commented.