Japanese star Takuma Sato set the pace in both qualifying sessions at Spa-Francorchamps to take pole position for the penultimate round of the British Formula Three Championship.

The Carlin Motorsport driver set provisional benchmark in the first of two sessions, and then went faster still in the closing moments of the second session to make certain of top spot as his rivals closed in.

Surprisingly, neither of the championship contenders will join Sato on the front row, as Portuguese interloper Tiago Monteiro edged series leader Antonio Pizzonia back to third in the afternoon session, despite lapping eight-tenths of a second slower than Sato's late, late effort. However, with title rival Tomas Scheckter back in ninth, Pizzonia is still looking good to secure the title this weekend. A place in the top eight will be enough to secure the title for the Brazilian, regardless of what Scheckter manages.

Nicolas Kiesa turned in a mighty performance in the second session to charge up to fourth after spinning out on the opening lap of the first session. Behind the Dane, Narain Karthikeyan and Ben Collins completed the top six qualifiers, with Milos Pavlovic, Gianmaria Bruni, Scheckter and Matt Davies rounding out the top ten.

In the Scholarship class, Gary Paffett again set the pace and ended the day well clear of closest rival Atsushi Katsumata.

Qualifying times - F3 - Spa.

1. Takuma Sato Carlin Dallara-Mugen F300 2min 15.019secs
2. Tiago Monteiro ASM Dallara-Renault F300 2min 15.852secs
3. Antonio Pizzonia Manor Dallara-Mugen F300 2min 15.925secs
4. Nicolas Kiesa RC Benetton Dallara-Opel F300 2min 15.972secs
5. Narain Karthikeyan Stewart Dallara-Mugen F300 2min 16.004secs
6. Ben Collins Carlin Dallara-Mugen F300 2min 16.050secs
7. Milos Pavlovic RC Benetton Dallara-Opel F300 2min 16.053secs
8. Gianmaria Bruni Fortec Dallara-Mugen F300 2min 16.375secs
9. Tomas Scheckter Stewart Dallara-Mugen F300 2min 16.564secs
10. Matt Davies Promatecme Dallara-Renault F300 2min 16.568secs



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