Despite their clear lead in the standings, Germany will start the sixth meeting of the A1 Grand Prix Championship in their first pole position after Niko Hulkenberg triumphed in an engrossing dual with star debutant Loic Duval for France.

Indeed, while teenager Hulkenberg has been a revelation this season with two wins to his name he is yet to taste glory on the Saturday, even if this pole position still marks his sixth straight top five starting position nonetheless.

Hulkenberg's pole winning performance came after barely featuring early on in the hour, with Duval, making his race debut for France this weekend, instead seizing the initiative to have a surprisingly comfortable margin with half of the session gone.

Nonetheless, with the circuit conditions improving and times beginning to tumble, Hulkenberg struck to the top of the timesheets at the right time in the third and fourth sessions and, despite Duval managing to remain inside the top three in all four segments, secured an aggregate time at the death good enough to deny the Formula Nippon driver a pole position on his debut.

"It was very slippery and the first two Qualifying segments were like driving on ice," he the championship leader said. "There was a lot of sand which I think came from the touring cars. I was fighting the car a lot but I was fast enough. Obviously from pole position we have the best chance for the race, but there is always a lot of action on the first lap.

Behind the feuding leaders, Jonny Reid was delighting the home crowds who were left perhaps slightly disappointed by his efforts in practice a day earlier, the double Sentul winning coming out fighting in the morning with the fastest time in final practice before qualifying and going on to prove equally as competitive when the grid positions were decided. A fastest time in segment two certainly helped Reid's cause.

Also performing better in qualifying than they had managed in practice were both Netherlands and Switzerland, who battled their way up to fourth and fifth on the grid, with Jeroen Bleekemolen ruing in particular failing to set a time in the third segment, a time that could have put him in contention for a front row slot.

Great Britain's Robbie Kerr will start sixth on the grid, alongside the Canadian sister car of James Hinchcliffe, while Alex Yoong got Malaysia back inside the top ten in eighth place.

There was disappointment for the underdogs who starred in practice, particularly Ireland, India and Czech Republic, with all three nations failing to live up to the pace they managed the day before.

Indeed, Richard Lyons has been a top three runner for most of the weekend, but could only manage ninth on the grid in qualifying, a position ahead of 'Friday hero' Narain Karthikeyan, even if he still claimed India's first top ten grid slot. Day one pace setter Tomas Enge though was the biggest loser, struggling to 15th on the grid, just ahead of USA newcomer Ryan Hunter-Reay.

 

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