Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais gave the home crowd something to cheer by taking an emphatic first pole position for tomorrow's round of the FIA F3000 championship at Magny-Cours.

The Gauloises Junior driver set the pace in the opening half-hour session, and was untroubled in the second, despite improvements by most of his rivals. As the chequered flag fell, however, Bourdais remained over a quarter of a second clear of the field, and goes one place better than his front row start at the last round in Monaco.

On a good day for the home 'team', Super Nova's Nicolas Minassian annexed the second front row spot, finding sufficient time in the second session to close in on Bourdais, and vault above previous occupant Fernando Alonso.

The Spaniard bounced around the top five in a frantic last ten minutes, before finally securing the inside position on row two. The Telefonica-backed Astromega driver was once again good value for his effort, hanging the tail out at almost every corner in his pursuit of a few vital tenths.

Alonso will be joined on row two by the man who had taken pole for the previous two races, David Saelens. The Belgian could not quite find enough in his Super Nova Lola to prolong his front-running streak, but that will probably come as something of a relief to both himself and the rest of the field after incident-filled starts to rounds four and five of the series.

Row three consists of Mario Haberfeld - finding a massive amount of time in the second session, despite only returning from injury last week - and another of the French contingent, Franck Montagny. The DAMS driver was one of those unable to defend his position, or improve his time, however, and dropped from third to sixth as a result.

Runaway championship leader Bruno Junqueira could only manage ninth, after not improving in the second session.

All four British drivers made it into the field, with Darren Manning best placed in eighth, one spot behind Australian Mark Webber. Justin Wilson took 13th, while Kevin McGarrity and Marc Hynes will line-up one place apart in 24th and 25th.

The highest profile non-qualifier looked likely to be Ricardo Mauricio, after the Brazilian failed to set a time in the opening session, but his improvement eventually dropped the luckless Kristian Kolby off the bubble for the third race in a row.

The Dane lost all hope of making the cut when he was assaulted by an out-of-control Yves Olivier at the Adelaide hairpin, and could do no better than 27th. He will be joined on the sidelines by his assailant, Viktor Maslov and Andreas Scheld.

Leading qualifiers - Magny-Cours F3000.

1. Sebastien Bourdais Gauloises Jr
2. Nicolas Minassian Super Nova
3. Fernando Alonso Astromega
4. David Saelens Super Nova
5. Mario Haberfeld Fortec
6. Franck Montagny DAMS
7. Mark Webber European Arrows
8. Darren Manning Arden Team Russia
9. Bruno Junqueira Petrobras Jr
10. Tomas Enge



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