Pierre Gasly took his second GP2 career pole position with an impressive lap of 1:39.572s to pip ART's Stoffel Vandoorne to the honours by just four hundredths of a second at Bahrain International Circuit in qualifying on Thursday afternoon.

Vandoorne - who has already clinched the 2015 GP2 drivers championship - had previously been on pole when the series made its first visit of the year to the venue in April, but found the DAMS driver's pace simply too hot to contend with this time around.

See full GP2 qualifying results from Bahrain International Circuit

Although the conditions at the 15-turn, 3.363-mile desert circuit in Sakhir were still scorching by any reasonable perspective, dark clouds were starting to form overhead which meant track conditions cooled slightly and allowed lap speeds to be the fastest that had been all day by some margin.

Trident's Raffaele Marciello had been the the first to set a representative flying lap time when he clocked in at 1:41.170s, immediately faster than Racing Engineering's Alexander Rossi has set in the earlier practice session. However it still wasn't fast enough to avoid his being quickly hustled off the top spot by a succession of faster efforts which included Racing Engineering's Jordan King, who went top with a time of 1:40.217s ahead of Gasly and Vandoorne.

Vandoorne - officially confirmed last week as taking over the McLaren F1 test and reserve driver role in 2016 from Kevin Magnussen - was able to improve with his second flying lap and go to provisional pole with the first lap in the 1:39s, but a strong effort from Norman Nato saw the Arden climb into second place less than 0.047s behind Vandoorne. That indicated the battle for pole supremacy was far from over, as the field headed back to pit lane for set-up adjustments, new tyres and a strategy discussion with their team

Back from his own F1 stint, Rossi made good use of the completely clear track in the meantime to vault himself up into fifth place behind Gasly, but he was still 0.184s off Vandoorne at the top as the other 23 drivers crowded back out onto the track with less than ten minutes remaining for their final qualifying efforts.

Marciello immediately set the pace, leaping back to the top with an impressive 1:39.648s only to once again be quickly removed from provisional pole by Vandoorne and then by Gasly, whose team mate Alex Lynn was also fast enough to pip King for fourth place with less than a tenth of a second now covering the laptimes of the top quartet. King's own ripose was enough to keep him in fifth, but he was now a third of a second off Gasly's benchmark and Nato now pushed down to sixth ahead of Russian Time's Mitch Evans and Rossi holding on in eighth but now a spectator back on pit road.

After a slow lap to cool their tyres, everyone still out on track had the chance for one final run. Despite a new purple first sector, Gasly was unable to improve on his earlier 1:39.572s, but the good news was that no one else in the top half of the standings was able to do any better and when the chequered flag came out he was confirmed as having clinched his second GP2 pole position, the first having come two months ago at Monza. With Lynn having taken the intervening pole at Sochi, it makes for a hattrick of back-to-back poles for the DAMS team.

With nothing left to prove this season, Vandoorne was content with a front row spot and pulled back down pit road early. Marciello and Lynn will line up on the second row ahead of King and Nato, while Evans will start from seventh alongside ART's Nobuharu Matsushita after the Japanese driver put in a late effort that was enough to pip Rossi to eighth place. Campos Racing's Arthur Pic rounds out the top ten.

In their first races back in GP2 since Spa at the end of August, Formula 3.5 Series champion Oliver Rowland (Status Grand Prix) will start from 18th and Trident's Daniel de Jong lines up in 21st, while Gustav Malja takes 23rd place on the grid as he deputises at Rapax for the injured Robert Visoiu.

With the unusual nature of this weekend's round - a replacement for the cancelled German summer event, and the only one of the season not to be in support of a F1 event - the altered schedule will see the 32-lap feature race 1 held on Friday afternoon at 3.30pm local time (12.30GMT), with the shorter 23-lap sprint race 2 set for Saturday morning at 10.45am (7.45am GMT).

See full GP2 qualifying results from Bahrain International Circuit



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