Alex Yoong proved Malaysia really is ready to fight back with a vengeance following its luckless outing in South Africa last month, by blitzing qualifying in Mexico City and leaving his rivals quite literally trailing in his wheel tracks.

The ex-Formula 1 driver was quickest in three out of the four 15-minute sessions, at one point by as much as six tenths of a second, as he swept to a crushingly dominant pole position - the squad's first since Shanghai at the end of A1GP's inaugural campaign. Although the 30-year-old triumphed twice in Brno earlier this season, a barren run since then has seen the Malaysian outfit slip down to seventh in the title chase, but with just eight points separating it from Great Britain in fourth, there is still clearly much to play for.

One of the most experienced hands in the field on a day when a number of rookies were given their heads, Yoong used his years of racing know-how to show the starlets the way around a technically-challenging circuit that was new ground for all save Brazilian Bruno Junquiera. His eventual margin of superiority was more than eight tenths of a second on aggregate, and sent out a real warning shot ahead of Sunday's races that Malaysia fully intends to make amends for its Durban disappointment - and in the grandest possible style.

Championship leaders Germany ultimately grabbed second place on the grid alongside the Malaysian entry, with Christian Vietoris taking over the reins from A1GP king Nico Hulkenberg, away fulfilling F3 commitments ahead of his maiden Euroseries campaign this year. The reigning Formula BMW ADAC Champion was consistently there or thereabouts throughout the four sessions, and though he never threatened Yoong's position, he did have the honour of pacing the final 15 minutes, which proved enough to see off the challenge of British rookie Oliver Jarvis just behind in third.

Perhaps the biggest cheers, though, were for the Mexican machine of Salvador Duran, as the local favourite came on increasingly strong to steal fourth place, albeit more than a second-and-a-half shy of the pole.

Defending champions France will line-up fifth courtesy of an impressive performance from rookie Jean-Karl Vernay, a top six competitor in three of the four sessions, with alongside him on the grid former GP2 ace Alvaro Parente for Portugal, providing a welcome boost for a nation currently rooted firmly in the lower reaches of the points table.

Champ Car front-runner Junqueira put his prior knowledge of the tricky circuit to good use as he hoisted the Brazilian entry up to seventh place, its best starting position since Beijing four months ago. Jonathan Summerton will join the former International F3000 champion on the fourth row of the grid following a consistent showing in the American car, while Ian Dyk impressed on his maiden appearance for Team Australia in ninth and Italian Enrico Toccacelo completed the top ten.

South Africa and China will share the sixth row of the grid for tomorrow's sprint race, with Ananda Mikola just behind in 13th for Indonesia and then - in what was possibly the biggest surprise of the hour - New Zealand star Jonny Reid, essentially the one man who can still prevent Team Germany from waltzing away with the nations' crown.

The 23-year-old - who in tandem with Jarvis had paced the opening day of practice and notched up a double victory in Indonesia at the end of last year - struggled throughout, only once breaking into the top ten and ending up a gaping 2.2 seconds off the pace. With Vietoris starting tomorrow's opening race on the front row, Kiwi hopes look bleak.

Other disappointments towards the back of the grid include Team Netherlands down in 16th, after rookie ace Renger van der Zande had traded the top time with Jarvis in final practice, Narain Karthikeyan for India one place further in arrears and Canadian James Hinchcliffe in 19th.

Richard Lyons (Ireland), Allam Khodair (Lebanon) and Nur Ali (Pakistan) - who caused the only red flag of the hour in session three - bring up the rear.

 

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