Charles Pic once again demonstrated that he has the ability to top the timesheets when it really matters, clinching pole position for the opening round of the World Series by Renault at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.
The season was also going to be close, and first qualifying confirmed precisely that, as just a thousandth of a second separated Tech 1 Racing's Pic from pacesetter Miguel Molina (Ultimate Motorsport) in the first SuperPole session of the year. However, the local favourite then found himself relegated to last place, following a rare USR team error, allowing James Walker to join Pic on the front row with reigning champion P1 Motorsport. The Jerseyman's team-mate, Daniil Move, took a surprise third spot, ahead of pre-race test leader Jaime Alguersuari (Carlin Motorsport).
The first qualifying session of the new season saw all even-numbered runners contesting Group A in Barcelona, and it was Pic and Molina who caught the eye. The Spaniard was straight into the lead, ahead of Move and Pic, but the leading positions changed regularly, and it was Pic who was in the lead by the time the drivers returned to the pits to fit new tyres.
With fresh rubber, Alguersuari was first to kick off a series of fastest times, with Molina and Move reacting immediately to regain control. Move continued to surprise, posting a 1min 33.567secs lap to move ahead of Alguersuari, Molina, Chris van der Drift (Epsilon Euskadi) and Pic, before the expected big guns struck back in the closing moments, led by Pic, who lapped in 1min 33.298secs to top of this group by from Molina, Alguersuari, Move, van der Drift and Marco Barba. In seventh, Pasquale DiSabatino had the honour of being the first driver not
to qualify for SuperPole.
Group B, filled by the odd-numbered cars, followed a similar pattern, with a few warm-up laps on old tyres leading to a flurry of pit-stops for fresh rubber. By the half-way point, it was Walker who had the upper hand, his lap of 1min 33.853secs putting him ahead of Adrian Valles (Epsilon Euskadi), Marcos Martinez (Pons Racing), Fairuz Fauzy (Mofaz Fortec Motorsport), Oliver Turvey (Carlin Motorsport) and Greg Mansell (Ultimate Motorsport).
Having donned fresh rubber, Turvey then propelled himself into first position, ahead of Draco's Bertrand Baguette, but Valles was quick to respond with a 1min 33.390secs lap. In the end, however, it was Walker who had the final word, improving to 1min 33.286secs to top the group ahead of Valles, Turvey, Martinez, Fauzy and Baguette. Late addition Brendon Hartley (Tech 1 Racing) only managed seventh, thus missing out on SuperPole.
With no preliminaries in the final shoot-out for the top twelve, all drivers streamed out as soon as the green light came on. Molina kept improving on his lap times and was first to snatch provisional pole, with a time of 1min 33.975secs putting him ahead of Fauzy and Martinez.
Barba managed to temporarily unseat his countryman from top spot, only for Move to put in the fastest lap at 1min 32.949secs. Pic was lurking, however, moving initially into second place before continuing his assault and finally putting in a better time of 1min 32.584secs as Walker moved into second.
Molina was not done, however, and inched onto pole position by just a 0.001secs with his final run, When it then transpired that he had been fitted with team-mate Mansell's tyres for the run, however, the Catalan was stripped of his time, relegating him to last place in SuperPole, and twelfth on the grid for the first race, as a result.
Although Pic's assumed fastest lap will give him pole for race two on Sunday, it is an all-Spanish front row for race one, as Valles and Martinez benefit from the reversal of the top eight places to lead the line, ahead of Baguette and rookie Turvey, with Alguersuari and Move on row three.