One year ago, Stoffel Vandoorne's pole at his home race at Spa was his first taste of qualifying success in GP2. It also kicked off a remarkable record run of six consecutive feature race pole position successes that stretched all the way to Catalunya at the start of 2015.

There's been a bit of an interregnum in the last few outings by comparison, with Vandoorne only taking pole in one of the last four races (at Austria), but a return to home turf this weekend also seemed to result in a return to the best of times for the Belgian.

The ART driver took advantage of a clear track to set an unbeatable time of 1:56.278s that was over half a second faster than his 2014 pole effort here, the boost in speed partly thanks to the introduction of DRS to the cars in the intervening time.

He then had a few tense minutes watching from the pit wall as his rivals tried their best to topple him from the top spot, but no one was able to quite pull it off and Vandoorne was free to celebrate his eighth pole position with the team while everyone else was still coming back in from their final efforts.

CLICK: Full GP2 Friday afternoon qualifying times from Spa-Francorchamps.

Conditions were still absolutely gorgeous at Spa-Francorchamps for the Friday afternoon session, a slight build up of wispy cloud doing nothing to stop the temperatures climbing nicely as the day went on - warmer in fact than many teams had been expecting to find in the Ardennes, track temperatures of 40C meaning an impact on grip levels for the drivers as they headed out to set their flying lap times.

The cars all went out in a closely-packed procession headed by ART's Nobuharu Matsushita and his team mate Vandoorne. It was Vandoorne who predictably shot to the top of the timesheets with his opening effort of 1:56.518s, with Matsushita half a second off but still good enough for provisional second place on the grid, at least until Russian Time's Mitch Evans was able to move ahead of the Japanese driver by a tenth.

An excellent offering of 1:56.937s was enough to see Formula 3.5 Series frontrunner Oliver Rowland go into second in his sophomore GP2 outing this weekend with MP Motorsport, but he was still more than four tenths from troubling Vandoorne's hold on pole. DAMS pair Alex Lynn and Pierre Gasly also opened their accounts with strong first efforts to put themselves into fifth and sixth places ahead of Racing Engineering pair Jordan King and Alexander Rossi in seventh and eighth respectively

King was able to press further ahead and soon improved two places to vault ahead of the DAMS duo for fifth, while Arden's Norman Nato also impressed with his second flier to split up the DAMS drivers and claim seventh place. He did so shortly before the halfway point of the session was reached and the cars started to return to pit lane for brief set-up tweaks and a change of tyres before launching their final assaults on the timing screens.

Vandoorne was by no means resting on his laurels, however, and was first to come back out at which point the Belgian had the 4.335-mile (7km), 19-turn circuit entirely to himself for what amounted to a parade lap for the home hero before getting down to business. He duly cut another few tenths off his previous best to further take the pole target out of reach of the others, almost two thirds of a second faster that Rowland, Evans and the rest of the 25-car field. Job seemingly well and truly done, Vandoorne then cruised back to pit lane to watch the remaining six minutes of the session unfold from the comfort of the pit wall.

Making use of the quiet spell proved a canny call by ART, as the rest of the cars flooded back out on track and immediately found themselves tripping over each other despite the length of the circuit in their bids to set their own fastest lap times. However once they settled down, the improved laptimes started to emerge.

If Vandoorne was expecting some nice comfort viewing for the last few minutes of qualifying, he would have got a shock from seeing Rossi's first sector lap time go purple. The American couldn't sustain the pace through the rest of the lap, however, even though he still managed to slightly improve his position. Meanwhile there were even better efforts from Rowland and Rapax's Sergey Sirotkin which saw Vandoorne's margin at the top suddenly look under threat, Rowland recapturing second just 0.147s off the top time with Sirotkin doing enough for third ahead of strong late efforts from both King and Matsushita, all of which managed to push Evans down to sixth place.

A final effort from Gasly saw him just edge in front of Rossi for seventh while also demoting his team mate Lynn down to ninth as collateral damage. The Briton will now start alongside Nato on the fifth row of the grid for tomorrow's feature race.

Just missing out on a top ten place in qualifying was Campos Racing's Rio Haryanto, followed by Trident's Raffaele Marciello and Rapax's Robert Visoiu. Nick Yelloly was 15th fastest in the sole Hilmer Motorsport car entered in this weekend's races, while Sergio Canamasas was 18th fastest for Lazarus after having been confirmed in the #27 car for the rest of the 2015 season, with Zoel Amberg once again having been ruled out on medical grounds reportedly after continuing to suffer from dizzy spells following his crash at Monaco in May.

At the back of the grid, newcomer Gustav Malja (Trident) did well to qualify in 24th place, one place ahead of fellow rookie Sean Gelael (Carlin), despite having missed most of the Friday morning practice session after spinning out at the final chicane. Fortunately Malja - and indeed the whole of the GP2 field - kept their noses broadly clean in qualifying itself and there were no significant incidents or interruptions during the session.

The GP2 drivers will next be on track again for the 25-lap feature race which gets underway on Saturday afternoon 3.50pm (2.50pm BST) and the shorter 18-lap sprint race on Sunday morning at 10.35am (9.35am BST).

The GP3 Series is also in action this weekend at Spa, with practice kicking things off this afternoon at 4.45pm (3.45pm BST), qualifying on Saturday morning at 9.45am (8.45am BST) and the 17-lap race 1 set to get underway later the same day at 5.15pm (4.15pm BST). The second GP3 race will be comprised of 13 laps on Sunday morning at 9.25am (8.25am BST).

See full GP2 Friday afternoon qualifying times from Spa-Francorchamps.



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