x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Valsecchi takes his maiden pole

The Italian Davide Valsecchi claimed his maiden GP2 pole yesterday and described it as the highlight of his career.

The Italian Davide Valsecchi claimed his maiden GP2 pole yesterday and described it as the highlight of his career. The iSport driver, 22, who set the pace in the morning practice session at Yas Marina, clocked a fastest lap of 1min 51.964secs, which was 0.219secs faster than Briton Sam Bird of ART Grand Prix. Fabio Leimer finished third in the first official qualifying session to take place at the new Abu Dhabi track. "I am really happy because I made my first pole position," said Valsecchi.

"It's the best moment in my career. We were competitive from the very start of the session and that gives us an advantage: you don't have to spend the whole session thinking that the time is running out and you have to improve or else you will start at the back of the grid. I wasn't stressed, we were immediately strong and I was confident." Valsecchi says the key for today's first of two races is to begin strongly. "The start is not my specialty lately," he said.

"It was before, in the last GP2 Asia Series, but in the main series I had so many problems at the beginning of the season I lost my confidence. I will try my best and lead the race after the first corner. So far, I'm lucky to be first on the grid." It could have all been so different, but for a technical problem to Meritus driver Luca Filippi, who looked the most likely to catch his Italian counterpart.

Filippi, who last year tested with Honda Racing, was fastest last week in pre-season testing and looked to be carrying that form into qualifying. But a gearbox selection problem on turn 19 caused his car to grind to a halt after just half the distance. In the Chevrolet Supercars Middle East Championship, Saudi Arabia's Prince Khalid Al Faisal clinched pole for today's first race by narrowly outpacing Bahrain's Salman al Khalifa. Al Faisal clocked a fastest lap time of 2-34.73, while his Gulf counterpart was just 0.257 behind.

Last year's title winner, Fahad al Musalam struggled for pace and finished sixth fastest overall. In the Porsche Supercup, Team Abu Dhabi's Khaled al Qubaisi made history by becoming the first Emirati to drive competitively on the Yas track. He finished 17th from a racing pack of 19, led by Alessandro Balzan. @Email:gmeenaghan@thenational.ae