Sweden's Bjorn Wirdheim put in one of the biggest surprises in recent Macau Grand Prix history when he overcame a highly-rated field to claim pole position for Sunday's blue riband event. British champion Takuma Sato was second quickest, while leading Briton was Crash's own Andy Priaulx, who lines up on the third row in his Promatecme Dallara.

Wirdheim, driving for Prema Powerteam, had only qualified 13th in the first session, but was in contention for the pole slot early on in final qualifying and put his unbeatable lap of two minutes 11.983 seconds in the closing minutes.

"I am very proud to be here in pole position as a rookie,? said Wirdheim. "I was not expecting to be here. I am happy for the team and they are very professional. I wouldn't have this result if it wasn't for them.?

Despite his lack of experience at Macau, Wirdheim said he felt confident he could maintain his front-running pace throughout Sunday's two heats.

"I think it is looking good as we have been quite consistent in practice,? he said. "I'm used to experienced competitors because I raced in the German Formula 3 Championship this year which is really tough."

Pre-event favourite Sato had been down in ninth with 10 minutes of qualifying remaining but found his best pace in the closing stages, despite being caught out by traffic on several occasions. He put in two consistently quick laps right at the end of qualifying and his best was just 0.079 seconds off Wirdheim's pole.

"It is a bit of a shame and I am a little bit disappointed,? admitted Sato. "I was held up a few times by traffic. For me the car was a bit unbalanced and I had seen that Bjorn had done a 2m11s which was really quick. It is a shame but being on the front row is good enough for me.?

Frenchman Jonathan Cochet was delighted with his third placed qualifying position on his return to Formula 3 competition. He had moved to the top of the time sheets briefly in the closing minutes but was unable to respond once Wirdheim and Sato had set their times.

The first thing I must say is that for me it is important to race again after a disappointing season,? he said. "I think the last lap was maybe the best lap for me and I am quite happy to be third. On Sunday it is important to be on the track at the end of the first race but you have to attack there, and attack even more in the second race.?

Provisional pole position holder Paolo Montin was able to take part in qualifying after repairs to his car following a gearbox problem in the morning, but he was unable to find the speed to get into the top three. His fourth position was just ahead of Japanese Formula 3 Champion Benoit Treluyer and Briton Andy Priaulx.

The session had to be red-flagged after 30 minutes when Australian Peter Hackett crashed his Carlin Motorsport car into the barriers.

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