Trident's Julian Leal was at the head of pit road when the lights went green, and soon laid down a reasonable first flying lap of 1:25.218s. But it was Rodolfo Gonzalez - whose Caterham team mate van der Garde had come so close to topping the first qualifying group - who was quickly making the running with a lap of 1:22.873s as Leimer, Razia and Scuderia Coloni's Fabio Onidi also put in fast laps to hustle Leal out of the way.
Gonzalez' next attempt to push times down was thwarted when he came up on the back of a slow Valsecchi, which allowed Leimer to go top instead with a new best lap of 1:22.053s and Cecotto slotting into second a little under two tenths behind.
But all the drivers had someway to go if they were going to challenge the earlier group for pole, and it was Marcus Ericsson who led the charge under the 82s mark with a lap of 1:21.863s and then bettered it to drive the time down to 1:21.249s - which meant that whoever ended this group fastest would now start from pole position with Group A's Max Chilton having to settle for second place.
Valsecchi was trying his best to take the top spot, getting very leery out of Rascasse on his flying lap but just managing to hold it off the barrier and going in the right direction to steel a narrow second place from Johnny Cecotto, but still a long way back from Ericsson's seemingly impregnable provisional pole effort.
And then with just three minutes to go in the session, with not a single incident or collision up to this point, there was a red flag: Rodolfo Gonzalez had pushed his luck beyond the reach of his talent and lost the Caterham coming through the chicane heading into the Swimming Pool. He hit the Armco with the rear of the car which then spun to clout the barrier a second time with the front, before coming to rest right in the middle of the track and leave the track workers no option but to call a break in proceedings to effect a recovery.
Once that was done, there was one last chance for drivers to come out and improve their times. Did anyone have anything to topple Ericsson? Certainly not Valsecchi, who had a bit of a moment through Ste. Devote and was lucky not to plant the DAMS into the barrier. Luiz Razia had enough juice in him to nip into third place ahead of Valsecchi as a result, but surely that was it for the day?
Johnny Cecotto Jr. had other ideas. Pushing for everything he was worth, he managed to hook up a last gasp lap of 1:21.195s to edge Ericsson by just 0.054s to steal his first-ever GP2 Series pole position even as the chequered flag flew. It seemed that after Barwa Addax had endured a bit of a damp squib for the first few races of the season, the 2011 championship-winning team was starting to reconnect with its undoubted form.
Perhaps an even bigger success had been the new-look qualifying format. While only introduced for this one session, more than a few people in pit road looked as though they were having a light bulb moment as they watched the highly entertaining session. It wouldn't be surprising if the idea of doing this format more often wasn't being discussed in GP2 circles for the next few days.
Full Group A and Group B qualifying times and feature race starting grid