Championship leader Alvaro Parente did his title hopes no harm at all by claiming pole position for his home round of the World Series by Renault at Estoril, although chief rival Ben Hanley will start just a row further back in fourth.

A return to the circuit the World Series last raced on in 2005, Parente had to rely on a last gasp effort to wrestle overall pole position away from Tech 1 Racing team-mate Julien Jousse, who had earlier claimed the provisional top spot with another fine performance.

As such, the French outfit - who took the lead of the team standings at Magny-Cours - are well placed move towards making it a double title win, even if it is still likely to go down to the wire in Barcelona next week.

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Even so, Parente earns a useful four points for his efforts of claiming pole position, thus moving 17 points clear in the standings. The former British Formula 3 Champion topped the second of the two qualifying groups with a time just two hundredths of a second quicker than his younger team-mate, with Jousse - easily the season's surprise package - managing his first front row starting position in second.

With Parente claiming pole position, those in the second qualifying group earned places on the 'odd' side of the grid, with Miguel Molina managing his best ever starting position in third place for Pons Racing. The Spanish teenager, however, could have been on pole position had he not had his final effort baulked by Davide Valsecchi.

Nonetheless, he was still placed him ahead of Hanley, the Prema Powerteam driver needing a significant result this weekend if he is to go to Spain with a realistic chance of overhauling Parente for the title.

The third row - which is worth a point for each driver - was filled by Bertrand Baguette, the Belgian starting in fifth place for the fifth time this season, and Carlin's Mikhail Aleshin.

There were few surprises rounding out the top ten, with Fairuz Fauzy, Filipe Albuquerque, Giedo van der Garde - driving the sole Victory Engineering entry this weekend - and Alvaro Barba rounding out the top ten positions.

Other British interests were signified by James Walker in a strong 12th for Fortec Motorsport, although Pippa Mann will start last after suffering hydraulics failure and failing to set a lap time.

Elsewhere, Carlin's newcomer Robert Wickens will make his European racing debut from 17th place, while Frederic Vervisch's return to GD Racing netted 20th on the grid - the team's best starting position since the second round of the year.