Warm, sunny but breezy conditions on the Portuguese coast were welcome features for the fans but slightly less so for the majority of drivers in the FIA GT Championship as times failed to improve during Saturday's final qualifying session.

Only five of the 32 teams present managed to lap the technical Estoril track quicker in the afternoon, two by virtue of failing to record a time in first qualifying, a situation that left Festina Force One Chrysler Viper trio Mike Hezemans, Anthony Kumpen and Philippe Alliot staring at a somewhat unlikely pole position.

In a sweet twist for the team that saw one of their two rumbling American beasts sidelined permanently at the last round of the series in Oschersleben, the Viper trio rubbed salt into the wounds of their rivals, leading final qualifying by an even greater margin than their 0.439secs advantage over Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Capellari from first qualifying. Although times were slower, the venerable machine showed it will be more than a match for its more modern competition come Sunday.

Behind the Capellari/Gollin Ferrari 550, Walter Lechner Jr, Franz Konrad and Toni Seiler's Saleen will start from third on the grid with the stunning new Ferrari 575 of Boris Derichebourg and Christian Pescatori on the outside of the second row.

Thomas Erdos was the first driver to actually improve on his team's morning time, moving the lead Graham Nash Saleen from seventh to sixth on the grid, now ahead of Championship leaders Thomas Biagi and Matteo Bobbi.

Things were not good either for the factory Lister team, whose cars will start eighth and 12th with the Andrea Piccini/David Sterckx Strom comfortably clear of the ballast laden Jamie Campbell-Walter/Nathan Kinch example.

In N-GT Andrea Bertolini and Fabrizio de Simone comfortably held on to their class pole and 16th place overall with the GT class Wieth Racing Ferrari separating them from their nearest class competition.

That competition comes in the form of Jamie Davies and Darren Turner's Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari and the EMKA Racing Porsche of Tim Sugden and Emmanuel Collard while the Jaroslav Janis/Robert Pergl crewed Menx Ferrari also made up some serious ground on the grid despite the track conditions.

 

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