Raffaele Giammaria claimed a sensational pole position on his International Superstars Series debut at the season finale at Pergusa, where the Audi RS5s including that of championship leader Johan Kristoffersson have struggled badly with the extra weight they are being made to carry.

Former F3000 racer Giammaria was a late replacement for Camillo Zurcher at the Romeo Ferraris Mercedes team, and topped the opening practice session in his first time in the car. In qualifying he was the only man to go below the 1m43s mark, taking pole by more than half a second over the Jaguar of Max Pigoli.

There was another series debutant back in third in the form of one-time World Touring Car racer Simone Iacone in a second Solaris Motorsport Chevrolet Lumina. Romeo Ferraris regular Andrea Larini was fourth ahead of the top BMW of Thomas Biagi and usual Chevrolet peddler Francesco Sini.

Vitantonio Liuzzi qualified in seventh place in his CAAL Racing Mercedes, 1.7s behind the similar machine of Giammaria, as he looks to close a ten point gap and steal the crown from Kristoffersson.

His hopes have been boosted by the fact the Audis struggled all day at the Sicilian venue. Hit by severe success ballast, the four-wheel-drive machine is unable to cope with the weight over the kerbs. Kristoffersson qualified 14th of the 15 drivers to set a time, 4.5 seconds off the pace, while Gianni Morbidelli failed to set a time after breaking a shock absorber.

The Italian veteran took to Twitter to vent his frustration and declare that he was throwing in the towel for the weekend.

After setting the pace in free practice two, Luigi Ferrara crashed his Roma Racing Team Mercedes without setting a time.