The only truly surprising thing about Yvan Muller's pole position at Macau was that it's the first time he's actually ever managed to clinch the top spot on the 3.803-mile, 19-turn Guia Circuit.
But the way he did it, with a clear second's advantage over second-place man Tiago Monteiro, was something else - and managed to startle even the 2013 series champion himself in the process.
“It's a surprise, because Macau is always a big challenge,” said Muller. “It was a clean lap, and at the same time the car was fantastic. The boys gave me the perfect car. It was hard, it was tough, but I had the car to do it.”
Having topped the first round of qualifying by over half a second ahead of BMW's Rob Huff, Muller punched out an impressive time of 2:29.770s on his first flying lap in the all-important 15-minute shootout for pole, before lowering the benchmark to an outstanding 2:28.933s in the dying seconds of the session.
Castrol Honda driver Monteiro wound up second, just 0.058s faster than his team mate Gabriele Tarquini who will take third place alongside Huff who had gone on to finish the latter part of qualifying in fourth place having been unable to find the pace with which to claim what would have been a fifth consecutive pole position in Macau.
"Before today's sessions we were concerned about having sixty kilos of ballast on board," said Monteiro. "We knew that the car is much better than last year, but we did not know if this would compensate for the sixty kilos. But we have been strong from the beginning and improved throughout the day."
Norbert Michelisz finished the session fifth fastest, ahead of Bamboo Engineering's Alex MacDowall who was the highest-placed of the Yokohama Trophy contenders.
Despite sustaining heavy damage in Free Practice 2, Tom Chilton was able to take part in qualifying and succeeded in making it through to Q2, meaning that he will line up on Sunday's race 1 grid in seventh place. That wasn't good news for FP2 pace setter Pepe Oriola, who ended up being squeezed out of the pole shootout session after missing the cut by 0.045s.
While Q2 was trouble-free for the 12 drivers who had made it through, Q1 proved a more problematic affair with three red flags: the first for Hugo Valente crashing at Paiol for Valente's Campos Racing team mate Michael Soong burrowing into the tyre wall at the Fisherman's bend.
With five minutes remaining, the final stoppage was triggered by Fredy Barth hitting the wall at the Solitude Esses. By the time Q1 ended, five of the Eurosport Asia Trophy competitors (Eurico De Jesus, Kin Veng Ng, Célio Alves Dias, Mak Ka Lok and Lam Kam San) had failed to get under the maximum qualification time.See full qualifying times