The F3 Euroseries' determination to maintain its stranglehold on the Macau Grand Prix got off to a good start on Friday [17 November] as its drivers locked out the top three places in qualifying.

The second and final qualifying session saw Japanese F3 rookie Kamui Kobayashi put his ASM Formule 3 Dallara-Mercedes at the head of the field with a lap time of 2min 13.449secs, to edge out countryman and fellow Euroseries runner Kohei Hirate by just over a tenth of a second. Both drives have been regulars in the top ten all through practice and first qualifying, but secured the first all-Japan front row in Macau by timing their best efforts so far just right.

"I am very happy as it is my first-ever pole position in F3," exclaimed Kobayashi, who graduated to the Euroseries as FRenault Eurocup winner in 2006, "The car was perfect and the team worked well."

Aware of the threat from behind, the youngster - who is set for a second Euroseries campaign next year - pressed on to try and move the pole further out of his rivals' reach, but joined others in paying the ultimate price.

"In the end, I tried to push again, but probably a little bit too much - as I crashed," he admitted sheepishly, "Fortunately, I already had my position at that time."

Hirate kept up the season-long struggle between ASM and Manor Motorsport by putting the best of British team's Dallara-Mercedes on the outside of row one, just 0.117secs shy of pole, having been unable to hold on to top spot when Kobayashi vaulted above him.

"Qualifying was quite difficult and, in the end, it was a real mess," he said of the various incidents that littered the final minutes, "I just tried to stay concentrated and get the best out of my tyres. I am looking forward to tomorrow."

Frenchman Romain Grosjean is proving to be the dark horse of the week so far, putting his Signature Plus Dallara-Mercedes into the top three for the third straight session. Unable to shine in the Euroseries campaign, Grosjean is using his experience at Macau to pose a threat, even he was another not to see out qualifying.

"With all these red flags, it was difficult to find the right rhythm, but I still got a good result," he admitted, "I set that lap time all on my own, without a slipstream. Unfortunately, I crashed in the final minute, but the car isn't too badly damaged."

In all, eight drivers from the Euroseries made it into the top ten, blitzing rivals from the British and Japanese national championships. Estonian Marko Asmer had held overnight pole for Hitech Racing and the Japanese championship, but crashed in morning practice and was unable to repeat his showing. His Thursday time, however, was still good enough for the outside of row two, where he will line up alongside Grosjean.

Asmer aside, the top ten set their fastest times in the second session on Friday, with Euroseries champion Paul di Resta claiming fifth, having been outside the leading group on day one. The Scot, however, clipped the barrier but escaped with his car largely unscathed.

Another Euroseries runner, Richard Antinucci, should have been fifth fastest on combined times, but was later adjudged to have set his best lap under yellow flag conditions, and had the mark stripped. That left him to rely on his Thursday best, good enough only for 15th.

Euroseries runner Roberto Streit, Kazuki Nakajima, Charlie Kimball and 2006 runner-up Sebastian Vettel filled places six to nine, with Japanese series favourite Kodai Tsukakoshi completing the top ten. The leading British series runner was Mike Conway who, despite topping morning practice, had to settle for eleventh on the grid.

The British champion brought out one of the session's three red flags, crashing his Raikkonen Robertson Dallara-Mercedes into the barriers. He was joined by Japanese series champion Adrian Sutil and American Kimball, with the German relegated to 14th overall as a result.

The final few minutes of the session were then blighted by light rain at the back of the circuit, causing Kobayashi and Grosjean to hit the barriers, but prevented any major shake-up in the order.

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