Brazilian Fabio Carbone saved his best until last to grab pole position for the 50th Macau Grand Prix in final qualifying on Friday - before hitting the barriers and damaging his car.

The Signature Plus driver found a clear run in the traffic to edge out closest challengers Ryan Briscoe and provisional pole position holder James Courtney but, as he tried to further improve his time, the former Marlboro Masters F3 racewinner pushed too hard and spun into the barriers at San Francisco Bend. However, despite sitting out the final minutes of the session, Carbone was relieved to find that he had done enough to clinch the top spot.

"It's unbelievable," a clearly delighted Brazilian said, "The car was good yesterday, so I felt really confident today. The car was perfect and I pushed really hard."

Australian Ryan Briscoe put a morning practice accident firmly behind him as he secured a place on the front row of the grid - despite another spin early in the session. The Euroseries F3 champion, who was the leading Macau rookie, put in his best lap near the end of the session to edge out compatriot Courtney, who had held provisional pole from Thursday's qualifying session.

"It's just fantastic," Briscoe, who had climbed from a lowly 15th on the grid overnight, enthused, "This is a very special and difficult circuit. I am feeling quite confident for the race, I have a good car, especially in the top section, but I know I have a lot to learn - although I am improving every time out."

Courtney, who had been quickest in every session before second qualifying, was disappointed with his third fastest time. He was one of the few drivers not to improve their time from first qualifying and blamed a wrong change of set-up and time lost in traffic for his plight.

"We made some changes before qualifying, after my team-mate had tried them this morning, but they didn't really improve anything," explained the TOM'S driver, "There was a lot of traffic and incidents out there, and the time should have been better. However, I feel quite confident for the race because there are plenty of chances to overtake here."

After the two red flags that blighted first qualifying, there were relatively few incidents during the final session. Carlin Motorsport drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Nico Rosberg both hit the barriers at Police, while Robert Doornbos crashed at Lisboa. Rosberg wound up on the inside of row four for race one, gaining a handful of places over first qualifying, but both Karthikeyan and Doornbos ceded places, the Indian falling to 17th on combined times.

Behind the top three, impressive Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre and German Macau veteran Pierre Kaffer completed the top five, with Richard Antinucci claiming the honour of being highest British series runner after taking his Hitech Racing Dallara to sixth spot after gaining five places in the session. Another race veteran, Paolo Montin trailed the Italian-American by three positions.

Outside the top ten, Carlin's Alvaro Parente got the better several big names, including Nelson Piquet Jr and Sardinia Masters winner Robert Kubica. Fairuz Fauzy also impressed by claiming a share of row six with the Portuguese racer, while Kubica leapt from the tail of the field to secure himself a seventh row spot.

Best of the Brits in Macau was Danny Watts, who found a chunk of time in moving from 21st to 16th, while Lewis Hamilton - in only his second f3 event - claimed 18th for Manor Motorsport. Doornbos' Menu Motorsport team-mate Rob Austin was 25th overall, one place behind UK Scholarship Class winner Ernesto Viso.

 

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