For the second successive season, Alain Menu will start from pole position for the final rounds of the World Touring Car Championship after last-gasp lap in qualifying at Macau.
The Chevrolet ace left it until his final lap of the session to secure his first pole position of the season, and the last for the Lacetti as a works entry, as he posted a stunning time of 2min 30.285secs as the chequered flag flew.
That allowed Menu to jump ahead of provisional polesitter Yvan Muller, while outgoing champion Andy Priaulx also got himself ahead of the Frenchman onto the front-row after making the most of a tow from Menu around the challenging street circuit to go second quickest.
“I thought I could do a high thirty, so when they told me Yvan had done a 30.9, I knew I had to do a very good lap to beat him,” Menu said. “I think Andy fired me up a little bit as well as he was trying to get a tow and I like to qualify on my own.
“He gave me more of an incentive to push. Macau is difficult to master and go faster. If you get it right at pretty much all the corners then at the end there is a very good lap time, but the margin between a good lap and being in the wall is very tiny. It worked for me like last year so this was perfect.”
That left Muller third, but the SEAT man received a boost when team-mate Gabriele Tarquini crashed out the session at Paiol and could only qualify in eighth place as a result. Tarquini needs to finish ahead of Muller in both races to stand any chance of securing the crown.
Rob Huff, one of five drivers to sit on provisional pole during the session, was fourth quickest in the second of the Chevrolet's ahead of Augusto Farfus – who had paced the Thursday test and both free practice sessions but saw his qualifying hopes end in the barriers at the Solitude Esses.
Jordi Gene was sixth ahead of Rickard Rydell and Tarquini, while the top ten was rounded out by Nicola Larini and Jorg Muller.
Independents' champion in waiting Sergio Hernadez rebounded from a practice accident to lead the independent brigade in 15th overall, ahead of Franz Engstler and Takayuki Aoki.
“I had a big crash this morning so I was a little bit afraid, but it was okay,” the Spaniard said. “The team have worked very well and also the lap was good. I managed to put two cars between me and Engstler, who is very quick here in Macau.
“This is going to be a little bit more comfortable for the races, but anyway it is going to be very difficult.”