Nicola De Marco has claimed his first pole position of the 2010 season in the first qualifying session at Valencia.

Jack Clarke initially set the pace around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, and continually improved to hold top spot at the halfway point in the session, just ahead of title contender Jolyon Palmer.

However, as the field changed to fresh rubber the times began to tumble, with practice pacesetter Benjamin Lariche going quickest, only to then be beaten by De Marco, whose time of 1m26.548s was enough to take pole. The Italian then stopped out on track. Armaan Ebrahim took an impressive third place towards the end of the session.

Will Bratt took fourth position, ahead of Sergey Afanasiev and Philipp Eng. Palmer ended up seventh, getting the upper-hand on series leader Dean Stoneman, who could only manage 11th place.

Benjamin Bailly, Ivan Samarin and Kazim Vasiliauskas rounded out the top ten. Ramon Pineiro will start his first ever F2 race from 13th, just behind Kelvin Snoeks and ahead of early pacesetter Clarke.

After the session, De Marco said: “It was a crazy qualifying session I think, as I only did two fast laps on the new tyres. Then after two laps I arrived at the first corner, pushed the throttle and the car stopped, so I did not think I had pole position – I knew that the lap was quick but I was still surprised.

“All this year I have been really quick but I’ve had problems with the car and been involved in accidents, so I hope to have a good race and to win this afternoon. This season has been disappointing for me as I wanted to do well in the championship and now I’m in eighth, but I will be trying to make up for it by winning today.”

Lariche added: “I did a good lap but not a perfect one as I made two or three little mistakes; it’s difficult to do a perfect lap here because there are so many corners. After free practice I hoped I could take pole position, but I have the first row and it’s very important to start from the front here as it can be difficult to overtake. I will be trying to push today and we will see if I can win. I remember in 2008 I started third here in Formula Renault and I took first position off the start, so I will try and do something like that today.”

Ebrahim was delighted to have secured third place on the grid. He said: I’m very happy as I didn’t expect it to be such a quick lap. The last couple of rounds have been difficult but we’ve always had strong races so hopefully we can score more points. It’s a good start to the weekend and I’m just going to try and do the best I can. I want to get a good start and have a good first lap.”