DAMS' Jérôme d'Ambrosio finally got the better of points-leading team-mate Kamui Kobayashi to annex pole position for the first of this weekend's two GP2 Asia Series races supporting the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
The Belgian is slowly, but surely, imposing his pace on the winter series and, in a tight fight for pole that saw 22 of the 26 drivers finishing within a second of each other, came out on top to secure his first GP2 feature race pole, adding two points to his season's tally and moving into the top five overall.
The rain that had threatened to fall on F1 final practice made an appearance for real ten minutes before the start of this GP2 qualifying and, as the lights went green, only half of the cars chose to venture out, mainly equipped in wet tyres. While championship leader Kobayashi stayed put in the pit-lane, however, teammate d'Ambrosio opted for a reconnaissance lap on slick tyres, and his intuition proved correct, as those who chose the wet tyre option quickly came back to the pits to change to slicks.
The first man to post a significant lap-time was Piquet GP's Diego Nunes, the Brazilian clocking a 1min 46.940secs effort ten minutes into the session, and precipitating a battle for pole between himself, Piquet team-mate Roldan Rodriguez, the two DAMS drivers, Durango's Davide Valsecchi and, to the surprise of most, a flying James Jakes, at the wheel of the better Super Nova machine.
d'Ambrosio's first spell at the top saw him dethroned for a few minutes by Nunes but, in the very last stages, the Belgian went on another flyer and crossed the line in 1min 45.410secs to topple the Piquet man by just over a tenth.
“I'm really delighted with my pole position, and I'd like to thank the whole team for giving me a perfect car today. The balance is good and tyre wear isn't a problem so I've got everything I need to fight for victory – and that's my aim!”
Jakes' form held up sufficiently to claim third spot - easily his best at GP2 level - while Kobayashi, who opened his GP2 victory account in last year's Malaysian sprint race, set his best time on his very last attempt, but had to settle for fourth.
"We started the session on a used set of slicks to solve the problem we had with the brakes in practice, but I was able to get a good feel of the circuit with this in preparation for the new tyres," Jakes revealed later, "The car balance was very good on both sets of tyres, and I think we could have been on pole if I could have managed to put my laps together."
Super Nova's good showing was backed up by fifth place for series veteran Javier Villa, the Spaniard building on his good testing form from last week's Barcelona's test to slot inside Vitaly Petrov, who salvaged a disappointing qualifying result for Campos after team-mate Sergio Perez slumped to 18th.