He may not be the local boy at Magny-Cours - that honour falls to Nicolas Lapierre - but Alex Premat sent the Friday crowds home happy after taking pole for ART Grand Prix at his home race.

The Frenchman added two points to his season's tally with top spot, which he secured by 0.077secs from Jose Maria Lopez, racing for the other French team in the series, DAMS. The home flavour continued when practice pacesetter Nico Rosberg completed the top three in the second ART car.

Premat topped the timesheets with a lap of 1min 25.132secs, more that two seconds quicker than team-mate Rosberg had managed in the damp-but-drying morning session. With conditions far hotter than the earlier session, the drop was to be expected, and the majority of the grid set notably faster times than they had before Formula One took over on track.

Adam Carroll had set the early pace with a lap of 1min 25.525secs, but the Irishman was unable to improve and will line up fifth on the grid, with fellow championship hopefuls Heikki Kovalainen and Scott Speed surrounding him. Gianmaria Bruni, however, did not fare as well as his title rivals, having had to watch his team change engines between sessions. The Italian will line up tenth as a result, alongside BCN's Hiroki Yoshimoto.

Ahead of Bruni, Speed was followed by local boy Lapierre and Nelson Piquet Jr, while Giorgio Pantano ensured that Super Nova joined Arden and ART in having both cars in the top ten. The French team shone in the last group test at Paul Ricard, and Rosberg had been the man expected to set the pace in qualifying. He confirmed his potential in free practice, but had to give best to Premat by just over a tenth of a second in a closely-contested session.

It was also a session almost entirely devoid of on-track incidents, with only Neel Jani blotting his copybook by ending his afternoon stranded in the gravel following an off on his second run. That gaffe resulted in the Swiss driver being unable to respond as the pace picked up, and left him 15th overall, with just three laps under his belt, one behind Racing Engineering team-mate Borja Garcia, who makes his return to the series having been suspended for the second Nurburgring race.

The other driver to be hit by a punishment following the last outing in Germany, Ernesto Viso, posted the 16th best time provisionally, but is set to be demoted to the rear of the grid for his part in turning Mathias Lauda around on lap one at the 'Ring. That penalty would elevate Ferdinando Monfardini onto row eight alongside Jani, while Viso drops to the back alongside slowest qualifier Can Artam.

Among the surprises, Fairuz Fauzy popped up in 13th spot, while Nurburgring winner Clivio Piccione failed to better 23rd, and was out-gunned by Durango team-mate Monfardini, who claimed 17th. Ryan Sharp was restricted to 21st - while DPR team-mate Olivier Pla took twelfth - after spinning out of the morning practice session.



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