Fresh from his first ever F1 appearance with Scuderia Toro Rosso, Carlin Motorsport's Jaime Alguesuari showed no ill-effects of swapping between cars as he claimed his first pole position in World Series by Renault in Portugal.
The Spaniard will start on the front row in race two at Portimao after posting the fastest time in the WSbR's complex qualifying process, this weekend running without the deciding Superpole shoot-out. Tech 1 Racing's Charles Pic will alongside Alguersuari after being handed top spot in the opposing group by a penalty for rival Fairuz Fauzy.
The Group A drivers were the first to qualify in the blistering Portuguese heat and, as air and track temperatures reached 31°C and 45°C respectively, it was Fairuz Fauzy who was first to strike, followed by Draco's Bertrand Baguette and Pic. The Frenchman responded immediately to claim provisional pole in 1min 35.334secs, before fresh tyres allowed Baguette to reset the pace at 1min 34.722secs. Similarly equipped with a new set of slicks, Fauzy then went one better, taking top spot in 1min 34.126secs, before improving to 1min 33.762secs to seemingly cement at least a front row spot.
Sadly for the Malaysian, however, scrutineering found that his Mofaz/Fortec car failed to meet the weight limit, an Fauzy had his times withdrawn, promoting Pic into top spot, ahead of Baguette, KMP Group/SG Formula's Guillaume Moreau and Epsilon Euskadi's Chris van der Drift, the Kiwi gaining pole for race one, thanks to the series reverse grid system.
“I'm sick today," Pic revealed, "I've got a throat infection, so it was very difficult in the heat. The track was also very different in the afternoon and more slippery. I hope I'll feel better tomorrow because with two races in the same day you have to be 100 per cent fit.”
There was bad news of a different for Pic's temporary team-mate, British F3 leader Daniel Ricciardo, however, as the Australian was unable to participate in the qualifying session due to an engine problem.
Group B was initially led by two Spanish drivers, Epsilon Euskadi's Dani Clos and Alguersuari, before the Toro Rosso recruit, pushing as hard as ever, claimed the fastest lap at 1min 33.938secs.
Before coming in to fit a new set of tyres, Alguersuari led Clos, Comtec Racing's latest signing Albert Valerio and Ultimate Motorsport's Miguel Molina, but the F1 rookie stepped up the attack once back on track, besting Pic's fastest lap with a time of 1min 33.578secs to claim provisional pole.
Clos and Jon Lancaster tried to beat him at the very end of the session, but were unable to shake the Catalan, who refused to sit and wait to see if he would have to give away his position by launching one more volley and setting another new fastest lap, at 1min 33.462secs, to point the issue beyond doubt. Right at the chequered flag, Carlin team-mate Oliver Turvey set the second fastest lap of the session to move ahead of Clos and Lancaster, and will start from the front row for the first of Saturday's two races.
“We have improved with every session, we're quicker and quicker, so I'm very happy with this first pole position," Alguersuari grinned, "I broke my engine in the free practice, but the mechanics have worked very fast to allow me to take part in this session. Now I'm dreaming of a win tomorrow."