Clivio Piccione has scored RC Motorsport's first ever World Series by Renault pole position at Magny-Cours, with Marco Bonanomi ensuring they would do it in style by snaring a spot on the front row alongside his team-mate.
A fraught battle in both qualifying groups, the early morning session meant the battle for pole position overall was more heated than usual as the circuit failed to improve so much as to benefit the second group of cars as it normally does.
In the first group, the leading contenders were expected to be championship leader Alvaro Parente, Bonanomi, Filip Albuquerque, Julien Jousse and Giedo van der Garde and the quintet duly led proceedings in the early stages of the session, Jousse, on home soil this weekend, going fastest initially before being usurped by Albuquerque.
However, the second half of the session began to see the lap times tumble, van der Garde going fastest, before Albuquerque and Parente lowered the marker further. Indeed, the Portuguese driver looked to have placed provisional pole position out of reach with his leading time of 1min 25.939secs only for Bonanomi to emerge from the lower half of the timesheet to snatch the top spot by a tenth.
The second fastest time drops Parente to the second row of the grid, with Davide Valsecchi a strong third after a late charge. van der Garde and Albuquerque held onto the fourth and fifth fastest time to guarantee themselves a spot inside the top ten.
All eyes were on championship contender Ben Hanley in the second group of qualifying, a group that was expected to take advantage of getting out on track after their rivals by going quicker and ensuring the 'odd' side of the grid.
However, the session started off slowly with practice pace setter Mikhail Aleshin taking the lead before Clivio Piccione became the first driver in the group to dip below 1min 27secs – albeit a second behind Bonanomi's marker.
What followed was a flurry of fastest times, the identities of the front runners changing as the minutes wore on. Firstly, Miguel Molina went top before, followed by Aleshin and then again by Molina. Hanley finally made his move to go fastest, only to see Piccione then sneak through and grab the fastest time – and crucially pole position by just two hundredths of a second.
The Monegasque driver's first pole position in the series, Piccione will be desperate for some good luck after a dismal season that has shown pace but as yet only yielded 13 points, leaving him 20th in the championship.
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