Giorgio Pantano might have paced free practice earlier in the day, but stepped up another gear from his already astonishing turn of speed to put himself on pole for the second GP2 Series feature race of the season, in Istanbul, on Saturday.

The Italian veteran, now with Racing Engineering, easily claimed top from Piquet Sport's Andreas Zuber, who also carried his morning performance into qualifying, and returnee Adam Carroll, who defied his lack of experience with the new GP2 Dallara to fill the inside of row two.

Pantano's pace was untouchable as he smashed the 1min 33secs barrier, setting a target of 1min 32.659secs on his final lap to beat his own time and put himself even further ahead of the competition. Zuber was more than two tenths off the pace, while Ulsterman Carroll another two tenths further back.

As usual, the pace improved throughout the half-hour session, with the final two minutes running at a fever pitch. Unfortunately for Davide Valsecchi, the pace was a
little too much, and the Italian lost his Durango car at the end of the back straight and ploughed straight into the tyre barrier.

The following Pantano reported that his fellow countryman didn't appear to have slowed at all before running deep into the tyre wall. Despite it being a nasty looking crash, Dallara's good work did its job and the car seems to have taken the brunt of the impact, leaving Valsecchi appearing to have escaped serious injury. He was taken to the medical centre for a compulsory check, however, and was advised to miss Saturday's race.

The session took place under large, ominous-looking clouds, with the teams receiving a forecast of further rain to come after Formula One practice was hit by the wet stuff. Given this information, every driver was immediately out on track, looking for banker laps just in case the rain came early. Pantano was immediately on the pace, setting a 1min 37.757secs benchmark on his first full lap and then chipping away at it each time around.

Andy Soucek, subbing for the injured Christian Bakkerud at Super Nova, Asia Series champion Romain Grosjean and Carroll kept the veteran honest, while Kamui Kobayashi pushed hard to make up for the five-place grid penalty he picked up for crossing the finish line twice after morning practice had ended. The effort was a bit too hard as it turned out, for the Japanese driver spun off entering turn one and stalled in the run-off area.

As a result, he will line up at the back of the grid for saturday's race, along with Durango's Alberto Valerio, who incurred a similar penalty, while Ben Hanley will be just ahead of them, in 22nd place, as a result of the ten-place penalty he picked up for causing an avoidable contact, with Jerome d'Ambrosio, in Barcelona.

While Zuber, Carroll, Grosjean and Bruno Senna, who rounded out the top five, look set to provide Pantano's main opposition on Saturday, Barcelona feature race winner Alvaro Parente seems unlikely to repeat his round one form. After stopping on track this morning, the Portuguese driver lost the rear of his Super Nova car going into turn three and spun to a stop in the middle of the next corner. Temporary team-mate Soucek ended the day in 14th spot, two ahead of Barcelona spring race runner-up Sebastien Buemi, as Arden failed to find the right set-up.

Although the marshals were able to remove Parente' stricken vehicle without stopping the session, stress levels rose as time ticked down. Pastor Maldonado, third in practice, lost the rear of his car at turn one, while Luca Filippi almost lost it coming out of the pits after losing time on the weighbridge. Zuber, meanwhile, almost collected the slower Senna as he tried in vain to match Pantano's time before Valsecchi's accident ended the session.

Maldonado, Karun Chandhok, Javier Villa, Valsecchi and Vitaly Petrov round out the top ten.

 

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