Peugeot increased their advantage at the front in the second hour of running at Le Mans, with Stephane Sarrazin building a strong lead for the No. 8 car after taking over driving duties from Pedro Lamy.
Sarrazin set the fastest lap of the race so far, a 3:21.872, and further increased his lead when the No.9 Peugeot lost around 20 seconds in a pit stop as Christian Klien got behind the wheel.
Klien rejoined the race just ahead of Jacques Villeneuve in the No.7 car, but quickly pulled away from the Canadian.
Allan McNish remained in the No. 2 Audi through another round of pit stops and began to close on Villeneuve in the third-placed Peugeot.
He was able to stay in touch with the third Peugeot by running a lap longer in each stint and making up around 20 seconds at each stop.
McNish got the gap down to less than 15 seconds before Villeneuve responded and upped his pace.
Lucas Luhr carried on his battle with the No. 1 Audi after Emanuele Pirro replaced Frank Biela behind the wheel. Luhr re-passed last year's winning car but there remains just a second between them.
Jan Charouz had a big crash in the Charouz-run Lola Aston Martin when he lost control on the approach to the Dunlop chicane. He hit the tyre wall hard, causing extensive damage to the front and rear of the car, but was able to crawl out of the gravel trap and head for the pits.
Charouz only made it to the top of the Mulsanne Straight before the car ground to a halt again, but he eventually made it back for repairs. The team predict these will take at least half an hour.
The other Charouz Lola, the No. 12 car, was involved in another incident when Greg Pickett pitted with damage to the right rear of the car after clashing with the No. 41 Zytek at Maison Blanche.
The fight between the Porsche RS Spyders at the front of the LMP2 class continued as Casper Elgaard once again chased down the Van Merksteijn. This time Elgaard made it ahead in the pit stops as Jos Verstappen took over from Jeroen Bleekemolen.
David Brabham chased down and split the Corvettes at the head of GT1 before handing the No.009 Aston Martin over to Antonio Garcia. Johnny O'Connell has assumed control of the No.63 car at the head of the class but is just two seconds ahead of Garcia.
Olivier Beretta, now in the No. 64 Corvette is 15 seconds down the road in third, but is still 20 seconds clear of Andrea Piccini in the second Aston.
The Flying Lizards Porsche lost the lead of the GT2 class after going off the road with the IMSA Porsche as they battled over the class lead.
Both cars made it back to the pits to have the damage repaired, handing the lead to Mika Salo in the Risi Competizione Ferrari.