Rodolfo Avila came on top of a four-way battle for pole at Zhuhai, snatching pole from dominant championship leader Christian Menzel with only minutes to go in qualifying.

Menzel was on the pace from the off, setting what would be the provisional pole time for much of the session on his first flying lap. Marchy Lee then took provisional pole away, as the two started to swap fastest times in the battle for pole.

However Avila beat both of them easily with his first quick attempt, and series debutant Craig Baird then beat them all by being the first driver to dip below the 1.39 barrier.

The quartet turned it up a notch in the final minutes of qualifying, Menzel taking pole back from Baird only to have Avila trounce both of them by almost three tenths. Lee refused to back down though, and tried a brace of flat-out laps to drag his Red Bull Racing Porsche to the top spot. He jumped up to 2nd at his first attempt, and improved further on his second lap, but still wasn’t able to find the last tenth he needed to overhaul Avila.

“We can still go faster – we weren't 100% out there!” said Avila. ” We used last year's set-up, which makes no sense if you go by the book [as it is a new car], but it has been perfect. Menzel made his (fast) lap in the beginning, and I was a little bit scared that if I didn't do it on my second run, I'd be down the order. But our confidence is back and we just need a good start tomorrow.”

Baird was dissapointed not have taken a front row slot after a small mistake on his final lap, but will still content with the eventual result.

“It's a brand new track for me, and while everyone said it was easy, it's more technical than people give it credit for. On my flying lap I got caught out by the last corner, but I definitely think I could have been on the front row. Rodolfo did well. I'll call it a 'home ground advantage', but of course we didn't give it to him!”

Baird’s team-mate Mok Weng Sun took Class B pole ahead of Jeffrey Lee, lining up 6th and 7th on the overall grid, which was the latter’s best qualifying result this year. Francis Tjia rounded out the Top 3 in Class B.

“It was really close today,” said Mok. “I came in after taking provisional pole, and I knew I had about two hundredths of a second. Then I found out Jeffrey was 2-3 hundredths of a second faster, so I had to put on my second set of tyres and go out there. I think everyone is getting used to the car and getting quicker.”

Qualifying Results

Pos. # Driver Cls Entrant Time
1 20 Rodolfo AVILA (MAC) A Team Jebsen (HKG) 1:38.672
2 38 Marchy LEE (HKG) A Red Bull Racing (HKG) +0.048
3 32 Craig BAIRD (NZL) A Team PCS Racing (SIN) +0.319
4 99 Christian MENZEL (GER) A Team StarChase (CHN) +0.324
5 55 Keita SAWA (JPN)* A LKM Racing (HKG) +0.499
6 33 MOK Weng Sun (SIN) B Team PCS Racing (SIN) +1.342
7 7 Jeffrey LEE (TPE) B Team Pauian Archiland (TPE) +1.424
8 21 Francis TJIA (HKG) B OpenRoad Racing (HKG) +1.877
9 11 Ringo CHONG (SIN) B Team Kangshun (CHN) +2.055
10 16 Wayne SHEN (HKG) B Modena Motorsports (HKG) +2.082
11 98 Philip MA (HKG) A Jacob & Co Racing (HKG) +2.277
12 25 Christian CHIA (CAN) B OpenRoad Racing (HKG) +2.558
13 8 Michael CHOI (HKG) B Dynaten Motorsports (HKG) +2.923
14 5 Yuey TAN (SIN) B Wimobilize McElrea Racing (SIN) +2.955
15 12 Morris KU Yee-Lung (HKG) B Team DAYCRAFT (HKG) +3.091
16 2 Kenneth LAU (HKG) B Dynaten Motorsports (HKG) +3.432
17 28 John SHEN (HKG) B Modena Motorsports (HKG) +3.649
18 68 MAK Hing Tak (HKG) B OMAK Team (HKG) +4.190
19 59 Philip BRIANDET (SIN) B Shift2Neutral Racing (SIN) +4.761
20 88 Shim CHING (CAN) B Shim Ching (CAN) +7.261
NC 18 Marcel TJIA (HKG) B OpenRoad Racing (HKG)
NC 64 Jean Marc MERLIN (FRA) B Team J2M Racing (FRA)
NC 77 Jacky YEUNG (HKG) B Jacky Yeung (HKG)

*Non series registered