Phoenix Carsport will start the final round of the FIA GT Championship from pole at San Luis after Marcel Fassler led the way in qualifying in Argentina.

Fassler headed Frederic Makowiecki during the session for his fifth pole of the year in the #5 Corvette C6R, with the Larbre Saleen going close to ending a difficult season with a pole of its own.

Early on in the 15-minute session, Bert Longin in the PK Carsport Saleen, and then Alexandre Negrao in the Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC 12, claimed provisional pole. However, ten minutes into the session, Makowiecki set provisional pole in the Saleen with a lap of 2min 13.766secs. Fassler responded with a time of 2min 13.514secs but as the chequered flag fell, Makowiecki crossed the line to retake pole.

Fassler wasn't to be beaten however and he retook the pole with the best time of the weekend so far on his final tour to equal the record for pole positions in a season.

"It wasn't easy to get pole position at all," he said. "It's a difficult track and I made a few little mistakes in each lap in the first half of the session. Than I made one big mistake and spun at the second chicane, but finally I managed to do one more very fast lap and that was enough for pole position. I'm very happy. I'm very proud of equalling Schneider's record for poles in a season, as I know how fast Bernd is."

Makowiecki was second in the Larbre Saleen, having just missed out on preserving his 100 per cent record for fastest qualifying laps, having previously set the best time in Dubai in a Ferrari 550 Maranello, despite competing in the G2 category at the time. Negrao was third in the Vitaphone Maserati MC12, making three different makes in the top three, separated by just 0.7 seconds.

Andrea Bertolini placed the #1 Vitaphone Maserati fourth, two places ahead of their title rivals Mike Hezemans and Fabrizio Gollin in the #6 Phoenix Carsport Corvette. Bert Longin was an excellent fifth in the PK Saleen, with Martin Basso qualifying the #38 ACA Argentina Ferrari 550 Maranello in seventh.

The #10 Gigawave Aston Martin DBR9 was forced to withdraw from the event after suffering serious damage in the pre-qualifying session, when it touched the wall. SRT's Corvette had qualified sixth, but saw its times cancelled due to qualifying on the wrong tyres and it will start from the back of the grid tomorrow. The #37 ACA Ferrari stopped on the track after only two laps.

With nine drivers from Argentina taking part in this inaugural round at the magnificent Potrero de los Funes circuit, it was apt that a local driver claimed pole position in the GT2 class with Russo, in the #95 Advanced Engineering Pecom Racing Team Ferrari 430 GT2, taking his first pole after a thrilling battle with Richard Westbrook, Tim Mullen and Markus Palttala.

As in GT1, the battle carried on to the chequered flag and beyond, with the Ferrari and the Prospeed Porsche swapping fastest times.

"I did the fastest lap, then heard on the radio that Russo was quicker," Westbrook commented. "I went fastest again, and again Russo went faster. But he did a super job and I think I was not able to go any quicker."

Russo was understandably delighted with his first pole.

"I'm proud to be on pole in my own country, my first pole ever in GT2," he said. "We have learned a lot this season and this is such a great result for the team."

With Westbrook classified second, Tim Mullen was third in the #55 CR Scuderia Ferrari, ahead of the second Prospeed Porsche, in the hands of Markus Palttala, the Finn's best qualifying of the season. Andrew Kirkaldy was fifth, ahead of Niki Cadei in the Kessel Ferrari.

The GT2 category had already been reduced by one due to the Trackspeed Porsche's crash in practice; during qualifying it was the turn of the #50 AF Corse Ferrari to clip the wall on its first lap out, failing to qualify. However, it will be allowed to start from the back of tomorrow's grid.

The sole G2 competitor this weekend, the Belgian Racing Gillet Vertigo, qualified 17th overall.



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