As two of the principal protagonists for this year's A1GP crown, it was perhaps only fitting that New Zealand and Switzerland should fight it out for the prime feature race qualifying slot in Australia, after fellow title contender France had stolen their thunder in the sprint race pole battle.

Following cloudy and humid conditions earlier on, the drivers were greeted by sunshine and blue skies when they took to the track for feature race qualifying, with Jonny Reid producing a sensational effort to ultimately pip Neel Jani by a scant twelve thousandths of a second. The Kiwi ace was one of the first drivers on track in Q4, and he set a time that would prove unbeatable to claim the first feature pole of his nation vs nation series career and fourth overall.

"We struggled to get a gap in qualifying one for the sprint race," the 24-year-old reflected after lining up in fourth spot for the shorter event. "After that we changed our game plan and made sure we got clean, clear runs. The car's great and I'm extremely satisfied that we've taken pole position.

"I was only able to qualify second here last year, but this year we're on pole and I'm really pleased. Qualifying is one thing and racing is another, but the car feels good, I'm confident with the team and I'm sure we can put in a strong performance tomorrow."

"Basically I was on average 1.5 seconds slower than the guys next to me on every lap," Jani admitted on his tough start to the weekend. "We tried everything, we changed everything on the car and the mechanics had a long night session to see what the problem could be.

"The last thing we changed for qualifying was the tyres, and my first lap on new tyres was 2.5 seconds quicker than I ever had been on the circuit so far. It was a shock to me in those first laps to feel that grip and how different the car was. In the end we still missed pole but we were close, so it was a big change for me."

Having failed to set a time in Q3 due to being held up by the Lebanese car spinning off at turn four, Great Britain's Robbie Kerr made a good recovery to ultimately steal third on the grid. The High Wycombe ace is competing this weekend without race engineer James Goodfield, who suffered a broken leg on Friday night after being hit by a tyre gun hose that became disconnected as the Portuguese crew in the garage next door were practicing their pit-stops.

Increasingly impressive Chinese ace Congfu Cheng - who is having a great meeting so far - will line up in fourth place alongside Kerr, less than three tenths of a second off the leading pace. A year on from the nation's first podium finish at Eastern Creek, China enjoyed one of its most competitive qualifying sessions to-date, topping the timesheets in the third segment.

Sprint race pole-sitter Lo?c Duval could only manage fifth place this time aboard the French entry, ahead of South Africa's Adrian Zaugg who will start from sixth. The USA's Jonathan Summerton, Czech Republic star Tomas Enge, Brazilian Sergio Jimenez and series returnee Fairuz Fauzy in the Malaysian machine complete the top ten, with German hope Michael Ammerm?ller struggling even more this time all the way down in twelfth and almost a full second adrift of the top spot.

There was similarly bad news for Canada's Robert Wickens, who after qualifying eighth subsequently saw his best time removed after the end of the session as a penalty for failing to comply with blue flags. His actions resulted in him holding up Jimenez - who was on his Q3 flying lap - and has left him back on the final row of the grid in 21st position.

Home nation A1 Team Australia's John Martin will start the feature event from 14th, having not quite been able to match his earlier sprint race qualifying exploit, whilst after an encouraging start to the weekend, Lebanon will start both races from the back of the grid. Chris Alajajian ran wide and spun into the tyre wall on his out-lap during the first qualifying segment, and unfortunately there was no time to repair the extensive damage sustained before the end of the session.

To see the feature race qualifying times in full, click here

 

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