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Le Mans: Kazuki Nakajima earns Toyota pole as Porsche grabs second

Kazuki Nakajima gave Toyota pole position for the Le Mans 24 Hours as the leading LMP1 cars set their fastest times of the event so far in final qualifying.

The ex-Formula 1 driver found nearly one second in the opening stages of the third qualifying session, which started 30 minutes early to make up for lost track time so far this week.

Most of the action came in the initial part of the session before darkness set in, with Nakajima the only driver able to get under the 3m22s bracket with a 3m21.789s.

"Pole is important and to start from pole position - even though it is 24 hours - is great," said Nakajima.

"It's a very good feeling and I am really happy with the car. I was struggling with the traffic but I managed to get one lap and it was just enough.

"It's going to be a tough race but tonight I am happy."

Romain Dumas was able to keep Porsche on the front row for its topline return to Le Mans by improving to a 3m22.146s, while Sebastien Buemi moved the second Toyota TS040 HYBRID from fifth to third, 0.7 seconds adrift of his team-mate.

The #20 Porsche 919 Hybrid, which held provisional pole after Wednesday's opening qualifying session, did not improve its time, leaving it fourth on the grid ahead of the three Audi R18 e-tron quattros.

Only one of the Audis - the #1 car - improved its time, but it still brought up the rear of the factory LMP1 runners in seventh.

Audi and Porsche both started readying new tyres for the final 15 minutes of the session, but any hopes of having another push for pole were dashed when race control announced that a yellow flag 'slow zone' was to be in place until the finish following Karun Chandhok's crash at Indianapolis in the Murphy Prototypes ORECA.

The #2 Audi caught the eye in the final minutes when Andre Lotterer set a best overall time through the first sector, but due to the slow zone he was unable to improve on the car's best lap.

Tristan Gommendy gave Ligier pole position in LMP2 for TDS Racing, his 3m37.609s being good enough to keep him clear of Harry Tincknell's best in the Jota Zytek.

Gianmaria Bruni Giancarlo Fisichella Tony Vilander

Gianmaria Bruni took GTE Pro pole for the #51 AF Corse Ferrari, wasting little time at the start of the session before deposing the provisional polesitting #73 Corvette.

While Antonio Garcia responded to the other improvements in the class to earn best of the rest honours for the #73 car, he was in fact the third fastest in GTE as ex-GP2 racer Sam Bird got the #81 GTE Am Ferrari between the top two Pro cars.

The next best GTE Am car was one second back - the #98 Aston Martin in the hands of Pedro Lamy - but there were five Pro cars between him and Bird in the overall standings.

The Nissan ZEOD set its fastest time yet around the Circuit de la Sarthe as the experimental Garage 56 entry had its best session of the week in terms of pace and mileage.

Lucas Ordenez's 3m50.185s was enough to get the #0 car ahead of all of the GTE runners, leaving it nearly six seconds adrift of the slowest LMP2 runner.

Several cars will be investigated overnight for speeding in the slow zone.

COMBINED QUALIFYING TIMES

Pos Cl       Car        Drivers                            Time
 1. LMP1 #7  Toyota     Wurz/Sarrazin/Nakajima             3m21.789s   
 2. LMP1 #14 Porsche    Dumas/Jani/Lieb                    3m22.146s   
 3. LMP1 #8  Toyota     Davidson/Lapierre/Buemi            3m22.523s   
 4. LMP1 #20 Porsche    Bernhard/Webber/Hartley            3m22.908s   
 5. LMP1 #3  Audi       Albuquerque/Bonanomi/Jarvis        3m23.271s   
 6. LMP1 #2  Audi       Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer          3m24.276s   
 7. LMP1 #1  Audi       Di Grassi/Gene/Kristensen          3m25.814s   
 8. LMP1 #12 Rebellion  Prost/Heidfeld/Beche               3m29.763s   
 9. LMP1 #13 Rebellion  Kraihamer/Belicchi/Leimer          3m31.608s   
10. LMP2 #46 Ligier     Thiriet/Badey/Gommendy             3m37.609s   
11. LMP2 #38 Zytek      Dolan/Tincknell/Turvey             3m37.674s   
12. LMP2 #35 Ligier     Brundle/Mardenborough/Shulzhitskiy 3m37.892s   
13. LMP2 #26 Morgan     Rusinov/Pla/Canal                  3m38.000s   
14. LMP2 #36 Alpine     Chatin/Panciatici/Webb             3m38.089s   
15. LMP2 #48 Oreca      Berthon/Gonzalez/Chandhok          3m38.207s   
16. LMP2 #47 Oreca      Howson/Bradley/Imperatori          3m38.689s   
17. LMP2 #43 Morgan     Klien/Hirsch/Brandela              3m39.135s   
18. LMP2 #34 Oreca      Frey/Mailleux/Lancaster            3m39.993s   
19. LMP2 #42 Zytek      Kimber-Smith/McMurry/Dyson         3m40.035s   
20. LMP2 #24 Oreca      Rast/Charouz/Capillaire            3m40.407s   
21. LMP2 #37 Oreca      Ladygin/Minassian/Mediani          3m41.297s   
22. LMP2 #27 Oreca      Zlobin/Salo/Ladygin                3m42.131s   
23. LMP2 #29 Morgan     Schell/Leutwiller/Roussel          3m42.438s   
24. LMP2 #33 Ligier     Cheng/Tung/Fong                    3m42.988s   
25. LMP2 #50 Morgan     Ragues/Taylor/Ihara                3m43.843s   
26. LMP2 #41 Zytek      Munemman/Latif/Winslow             3m44.293s   
27. CDNT #0  Nissan     Ordonez/Reip/Motoyama              3m50.185s   
28. GTEP #51 Ferrari    Bruni/Vilander/Fisichella          3m53.700s   
29. GTEA #81 Ferrari    Wyatt/Rugolo/Bird                  3m54.665s   
30. GTEP #73 Chevrolet  Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor            3m54.777s   
31. GTEP #97 Aston      Turner/Mucke/Senna                 3m54.891s   
32. GTEP #74 Chevrolet  Gavin/Milner/Westbrook             3m55.190s   
33. GTEP #52 Ferrari    Griffin/Parente/Leo                3m55.347s   
34. GTEP #92 Porsche    Holzer/Makowiecki/Lietz            3m55.516s   
35. GTEA #98 Aston      Dalla Lana/Lamy/Nygaard            3m55.644s   
36. GTEP #91 Porsche    Pilet/Bergmeister/Tandy            3m55.745s   
37. GTEA #95 Aston      Poulsen/Heinemeier-Hansson/Thiim   3m55.944s   
38. GTEA #61 Ferrari    Perez-Companc/Cioci/Venturi        3m55.977s   
39. GTEA #72 Ferrari    Bertolini/Shaitar/Basov            3m56.063s   
40. GTEA #88 Porsche    Ried/Bachler/Al Qubaisi            3m56.974s   
41. GTEA #77 Porsche    Dempsey/Foster/Long                3m57.004s   
42. GTEA #90 Ferrari    Montecalvo/Roda/Ruberti            3m57.217s   
43. GTEP #99 Aston      MacDowall/O'Young/Rees             3m57.258s   
44. GTEA #60 Ferrari    Mann/Case/Giammaria                3m57.274s   
45. GTEA #66 Ferrari    Al Faisal/Neiman/Pumpelly          3m57.757s   
46. GTEA #53 Ferrari    Mowlem/Patterson/Hamilton          3m57.958s   
47. GTEP #71 Ferrari    Rigon/Calado/Beretta               3m58.086s   
48. GTEA #76 Porsche    Narac/Armindo/Hallyday             3m58.398s   
49. GTEA #79 Porsche    MacNeil/Curtis/Bleekemolen         3m59.012s   
50. GTEA #75 Porsche    Perrodo/Collard/Palttala           3m59.394s   
51. GTEA #58 Ferrari    Barthez/Pons/Ayari                 3m59.837s   
52. GTEA #57 Ferrari    Krohn/Jonsson/Collins              4m01.006s   
53. GTEA #70 Ferrari    Nakano/Ehret/Rich                  4m01.446s   
54. GTEA #67 Porsche    Maris/Merlin/Helary                4m03.277s   
55. GTEA #62 Ferrari    Mallegol/Bachelier/Blank           4m10.354s   
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