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Formula E

Evans claims crucial Portland pole as title rivals falter

Mitch Evans will start the opening race of the Portland E-Prix from pole position.

Evans
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To news overview © Alastair Staley / Formula E

Mitch Evans has kept his title chances very much alive, by claiming pole position for the opening race of the Portland E-Prix. 

The New Zealander defeated Norman Nato to claim pole and the three championship points that come with it. Evans defeated Jake Hughes and Lucas di Grassi to reach the final, whilst both of his title rivals faltered. 

In a huge shock, the top two in the drivers' championship – Nick Cassidy and Pascal Wehrlein – were knocked out in the group stage, as was Andretti's Jake Dennis.

Despite progressing to the final, Nato will start from P12 rather than second, due to a 10-place grid penalty for receiving a third reprimand on Friday in free practice.  This promotes Jake Hughes onto the front row, and Robin Frijns into third. 

Group Stage

The opening group of qualifying at the Portland International Raceway featured two title protagonists, in the form of Cassidy and Evans.

Evans had a scare mid-session after going wide and off onto the grass on the outside of Turn 4, leaving him outside the top four duel places after the first runs. Following the first runs, Hughes topped the group ahead of Sebastian Buemi, Nico Müller and Cassidy.

It was mixed fortunes for Jaguar as the group concluded, as Evans set a strong time to go second fastest, behind Hughes who further improved to top the group. 

In a massive surprise, Cassidy only managed P8, as Di Grassi and Mortara secured the final two Group A duel spots.

Cassidy's early exit opened the door to his closest title rival, Wehrlein, to pounce. The Porsche driver featured in the second qualifying group, as did his team-mate and reigning world champion Dennis. 

However, Wehrlein failed to capitalise on Cassidy failing to progress past the group stage, as the German was also knocked out in the group stage after only managing P5. 

Reigning world champion Dennis was also eliminated in Group B, whilst it was Ticktum at the top ahead of da Costa, Frijns and Nato.

Duels

In the first duel of the opening day of the Portland double-header, Evans went against former champion di Grassi. It was a surprise to see di Grassi progress past the group stage based on his disappointing season. 

This was as far as di Grassi progressed, as Evans defeated him by just over three tenths of a second, courtesy of a 1:08.974. Soon after Evans, Hughes defeated Mortara comfortably, as the Mahindra driver went off the circuit at the penultimate corner. 

Quarter-final number three saw Frijns against da Costa, in a battle of the veterans. Da Costa was quicker than Frijns through the first two sectors, but a big mistake at the final corner cost the Porsche driver. It allowed Frijns to progress to the semi-finals by just 0.046s.

The final duel was between Nato and Ticktum, two drivers yet to receive a contract for next season. Despite having topped Group B, Ticktum was slow in the duels and was 0.083s off Nato's pace. Nato progressed to the semi-finals. 

Into the semi-finals, and the opening duel of this stage was between Evans and Hughes. Evans had the advantage by just over 0.150s halfway through the lap, although he extended this to 0.261s in the final sector to progress to the last duel. 

Aiming to meet Evans in the final were Nato and Frijns, with the latter having lost three tenths of a second through the first two corners alone. With this, the damage was done for Frijns, who was beaten by Nato.

In the final, Nato had the edge through the first sector and was a tenth ahead of Evans; however, the Jaguar driver was strong in the closing corners. Nato set a 1:09.016, but was two tenths slower than Evans, who claimed a crucial pole position.

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