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Monza: Pantano takes GP2 pole
Giorgio Pantano picked up in qualifying where he left off in free practice by claiming pole position this afternoon at his home circuit Monza, taking the top spot by three tenths of a second ahead of Lucas di Grassi and teammate Vitaly Petrov.

The Italian looked smooth and fast throughout qualifying, sitting at or near the top of the timesheets before setting a lap of 1:30.546 with a few minutes remaining to settle the fight, with his teammate setting his own fastest lap one minute later to set the exact same time as di Grassi, who takes the front row position on account of setting the time earlier in the session.

The session opened under the usual hot conditions, and Luca Filippi was determined to make up for missing the top spot earlier today by setting the early pace, with Borja Garcia, di Grassi and Adam Carroll taking the position from him a few minutes later before Pantano made it his own with a lap of 31.355: di Grassi briefly reclaimed the position before Pantano ran faster again to take it back before most of the drivers came in for new tires.

One man to stay out was Filippi, who was looking exceptionally fast on an almost empty track, but he found one of only two other cars at the Parabolica and his lap was lost. Nonetheless, with seventeen drivers within a second of provisional pole, there was everything to play for in the second half of qualifying.

But try as they might, the rest of the field was unable to stay with the pace of Pantano: Carroll looked fast but a spin at the first chicane was costly, while Filippi was quicker than previous but unable to find a tow to pick up the last couple of tenths.

With four minutes remaining Pantano set the fastest lap, with Petrov one thousandth away from an all Campos front row a minute later, and as the checkered flag dropped the final fight was on: Pantano matched his time but Timo Glock, determined to get ahead of championship rival di Grassi on the grid, pushed too hard and ran through the gravel and the session was over.

Behind the top three Kazuki Nakajima, Adam Carroll and Xandi Negrao looked impressive, with Filippi and Glock rounding out the top eight positions. But back in the pits Pantano had the satisfied look of a man who had taken a big step towards matching his dual win haul at this track from last year. And considering that he started from second this time last year, there were not too many people in the paddock willing to bet against him for at least the first half of that challenge tomorrow.

Pos  Driver     Team                   Time      Behind
 1.  Pantano    Campos Grand Prix      1:30.546        
 2.  Di Grassi  ART Grand Prix         1:30.879  + 0.333
 3.  Petrov     Campos Grand Prix      1:30.879  + 0.333
 4.  Nakajima   DAMS                   1:30.941  + 0.395
 5.  Carroll    FMS International      1:30.981  + 0.435
 6.  Negrao     Minardi Piquet Sports  1:31.006  + 0.460
 7.  Filippi    Super Nova Internation 1:31.048  + 0.502
 8.  Glock      iSport International   1:31.090  + 0.544
 9.  Zaugg      Arden International    1:31.190  + 0.644
10.  Zuber      iSport International   1:31.202  + 0.656
11.  Buemi      ART Grand Prix         1:31.219  + 0.673
12.  Conway     Super Nova Internation 1:31.289  + 0.743
13.  Rodriguez  Minardi Piquet Sports  1:31.445  + 0.899
14.  Senna      Arden International    1:31.499  + 0.953
15.  Garcia     Durango                1:31.631  + 1.085
16.  Martinez   Racing Engineering     1:31.670  + 1.124
17.  Villa      Racing Engineering     1:31.733  + 1.187
18.  Chandhok   Durango                1:31.826  + 1.280
19.  Lapierre   DAMS                   1:31.837  + 1.291
20.  Hirate     Trident Racing         1:31.851  + 1.305
21.  Tung       BCN Competicion        1:31.958  + 1.412
22.  Risatti    Trident Racing         1:31.971  + 1.425
23.  Pla        DPR                    1:32.125  + 1.579
24.  Tahinci    FMS International      1:32.314  + 1.768
25.  Niemela    BCN Competicion        1:33.578  + 3.032
26.  Soucek     DPR                 (*)1:38.111  + 7.565
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