Cliffe delighted with "lucky" pole

Tristan Cliffe notched up his tenth pole in a row in qualifying for the opening race of the penultimate round of the 2013 F3 Cup season at Donington to cap a remarkable turnaround.

Tristan Cliffe notched up his tenth pole in a row in qualifying for the opening race of the penultimate round of the 2013 F3 Cup season at Donington to cap a remarkable turnaround.

The Omicron Motorsport racer has spent the last three weeks rebuilding his car after his Snetterton crash and began the session with the main plan of setting three laps to ensure he'd be on the race one grid. After shaking off some rattles, he joined Alex Craven, Louis Hamilton-Smith and Alice Powell in the hunt for pole and unexpectedly came out on top.

"It's nice to be on pole after three weeks of utter hard graft, worry and stress." Cliffe said. "It's not easy, but we got here and we're on pole. It was a little bit lucky as I think Alex had a problem with a wishbone falling out of the gearbox slightly which could have been a leftover from one of the Snetterton "stunts". Whether or not he'd have been able to beat me or whether I would have raised my game to beat him I don't know.

"I saw the number one and wasn't going to try too hard and then we had the safety car only had one lap after that. I hadn't got the tyres up to temperature so there wasn't going to be much improving. We came back happy with pole."

Craven was indeed the man to beat in qualifying until his run of bad luck extended yet more. Cliffe expects Craven to be the one to catch once the cars are lined up on the Donington Park grid.

"The race tomorrow is going to be interesting though because I think Alex has got quite a lot of underlying pace this weekend.

"Who knows what will happen. Maybe Alex will win it this weekend, he's probably the man to beat even though I'm on pole. He's probably the quicker of the two of us but it's motorsport, anything can happen, Alex and Alice proved that at Snett. It might be that happens again and I scamper though and win unchallenged or I might get involved in it. I'll just do my own thing and see what happens."

Cliffe and Craven share the front row, and the pole-sitter knows he'll need a good getaway but also the help of those behind to fully drag Powell back in going into the final three races.

Cliffe joked: "We'll try and make a good start, I've been helping Mark Harrison with data and video and in return they've given me tips on how to start an F3 car quickly. Fortunately I'm quite good at overtaking so we'll see what happens when the lights go out.

"I'd prefer if Louis Hamilton-Smith pulled his finger out a bit and maybe Mark Harrison can find the couple of seconds that we think he can. He's quite good at starts and hard to pass once he's ahead of you so both of them could come into play tomorrow. Alice finishing fifth would be a great help, I really need to think about getting as many points as I can including fastest laps and poles where possible. As Alice kept saying in the season points make prizes so I just need to rack up as many points as I can and hope that she can't. I can't do anything about her; she'll play her own game, I'll play mine and we'll add up the scores in a month's time."

After such an comprehensive overhaul of the car, the Omicron squad unsurprisingly have some finer tweaks to make to squeeze out a bit more pace to match that of Craven. But, he impressed that the changes were nothing major and more in relation to setup.

"The car wasn't quite right we had a problem with it cutting out though it probably wasn't costing me time more concentration or something like that. The balance into the slower corners wasn't quite right and it wasn't quite set-up as we wanted. They're just last minute changes, nothing radical it's more making sure the car is square rather than changes to anything underlying.

"It's nice to be at the sharp end at least and not worry about scuttling around in fifth or sixth and going "why is the car slow" or sitting at home and watching on live timing."

Race one of F3 Cup at Donington and round eight starts at 11:10. Follow @F3Cup for live updates.