Audi waited until the final half hour of first practice for the Le Mans 24 Hours to show its hand as 2010 winner Mike Rockenfeller topped the timesheets with a lap of 3m27.986s.
The four-hour session ended with a flurry as Audi and Peugeot traded fastest times.
Andre Lotterer was first to break through Peugeot's dominance with a 3m28.296s lap and even qualifying king Sebastien Bourdais could not quite match it with a final fresh-tyre run in the closing minutes. Then Rockenfeller chipped in to displace his team-mate with just a minute and a half to go.
Bourdais was the fastest Peugeot driver on 3m28.536s, third overall and less than 0.1s quicker than team-mate Alex Wurz in the #7 car.
The recent change in ballast regulations had a marked effect as the year-old ORECA-run Peugeot 908 HDi, which has been allowed to run 15kg less ballast, topped the timesheets for much of the session's opening two hours. The car, shared by Olivier Panis, Nicolas Lapierre and Loic Duval, posted a 3m30.096s lap that was not bettered until Simon Pagenaud sliced under the 3m30s barrier in his factory Peugeot 20 minutes shy of the halfway mark.
By the end, though, the pace of the factory entries told and the ORECA car finished the session seventh quickest, having not improved on its earlier time.
The session was red-flagged after an hour when Raymond Narac's #76 IMSA Performance Porsche 911 crashed heavily in the first section of the Porsche Curves. The car dislodged the end of the tyre wall and came to rest on the edge of the gravel trap, bringing about an 18-minute delay.
Lola chassis initially had the advantage among the petrol-powered LMP1 entries. The two Toyota-engined Rebellion coupes were quickest for much of the session, challenged mainly by the #15 and #16 Pescarolo-Judds. Their next quickest rival, the #20 Zytek, was 5s adrift. At the end of the session Julien Jousse set 3m34.271s in the #16 works Pescarolo, undercutting the #13 Rebellion Lola's best time, set by Jean-Christophe Bouillion, by just a second.
Aston Martin's brace of AMR-Ones encountered mixed fortunes. Darren Turner reported that adjustments to the #007 car he shares with Christian Klien and Stefan Mucke improved its stability, closing the session with a quickest time of 3m46.299s. The #009 car covered just 11 laps before pitting for an extended stay in the garage while an oil leak was traced.
In spite of carrying additional ballast, Strakka Racing topped the LMP2 entries with its HPD ARX.01. Danny Watts, Jonny Kane and Nick Leventis set a quickest time of 3m42.863s, edging out the #48 ORECA Nissan shared by Alexandre Premat, David Hallyday and Dominick Kraihamer. A brake fire hindered the other pre-race favourite, the Mike Newton/Tommy Erdos/Ben Collins RML HPD ARX.01.
BMW set the pace in the GTE Pro class. Jorg Muller was first to break the four-minute barrier with a 3m59.028s in the #55 M3 GT he shares with Augusto Farfus and Dirk Werner, followed quickly by Andy Priaulx with a 3m59.763s in the #56 car.
There was a minor scare for Corvette Racing when the Oliver Gavin/Jan Magnussen/Richard Westbrook car started smoking on its out-lap after the restart. The problem was traced to a dislodged power steering hose and the car went back out to record the third fastest time in the session, 4m00.467s.
The new Lotus Evoras propped up the GTE Pro class, the fastest time of 4m09.576 coming at the hands of Johnny Mowlem. The Jetalliance team is pinning its hopes on an economy run. "We're going to try to squeeze 15 laps out of a tank and get triple stints out of the Michelin tyres," said Mowlem. "We've got three consistent drivers so we're hoping for a good result."
The #71 AF Corse Ferrari shared by NASCAR racer Michael Waltrip, Robert Kauffman and Rui Aguas suffered a left rear puncture while Kauffman was at the wheel and limped back to the pits during the stoppage.
Fabien Giroix, Michael Wainwright and Roald Goethe dominated GTE Am in their Gulf AMR Aston Martin, setting a quickest time of 4m04.702s, comfortably quicker than the 4m06.266s posted by Darren Law in the #81 Flying Lizard Porsche 911.
Roger Wills had a gyration at the exit of Porsche Curves in the #62 CRS Racing Ferrari just before the half-way point of the session and hit the wall, damaging the car.
Pos Cl Drivers Team/Car Time 1. LMP1 Bernhard/Dumas/Rockenfeller Audi R18 TDI 3m27.986s 2. LMP1 Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer Audi R18 TDI 3m28.296s 3. LMP1 Lamy/Bourdais/Pagenaud Peugeot 908 3m28.536s 4. LMP1 Gene/Wurz/Davidson Peugeot 908 3m28.692s 5. LMP1 Capello/Kristensen/McNish Audi R18 TDI 3m28.721s 6. LMP1 Montagny/Sarrazin/Minassian Peugeot 908 3m29.089s 7. LMP1 Lapierre/Duval/Panis ORECA Peugeot 908 Hdi-FAP 3m30.096s 8. LMP1 Collard/Tinseau/Jousse Pescarolo-Judd 3m31.721s 9. LMP1 Belicchi/Boullion/Smith Rebellion Lola-Toyota 3m35.840s 10. LMP1 Monteiro/Moreau/Ragues Oak Pescarolo-Judd 3m36.260s 11. LMP1 Jani/Prost/Bleekemolen Rebellion Lola-Toyota 3m36.319s 12. LMP1 Amaral/Pla/Hughes Quifel-ASM Zytek 3m41.694s 13. LMP1 Hein/Nicolet/Yvon Oak Pescarolo-Judd 3m41.801s 14. LMP1 Ickx/Martin/Leinders Kronos Aston Martin 3m41.962s 15. LMP2 Leventis/Watts/Kane Strakka HPD ARX-01d 3m42.863s 16. LMP2 Premat/Hallyday/Kraihamer Oreca-Nissan 3m43.295s 17. LMP2 Mailleux/Ordonez/Ayari Signatech ORECA-Nissan 3m43.397s 18. LMP2 Nakano/De Crem/Charouz Oak Racing Pescarolo-BMW 3m44.687s 19. LMP2 Ojjeh/Kimber-Smith/Lombard Greaves Zytek-Nissan 3m45.229s 20. LMP2 Perez Companc/Russo/Kaffer Pecom Lola-Judd 3m46.133s 21. LMP1 Mucke/Turner/Klien Aston Martin AMR-One 3m46.299s 22. LMP2 Frey/Meichtry/Rostan Race Performance ORECA-Judd 3m47.723s 23. LMP1 Zacchia/Lammers/Elgaard Hope ORECA 3m48.577s 24. LMP1 Primat/Fernandez/Meyrick Aston Martin AMR-One 3m49.094s 25. LMP2 Erdos/Newton/Collins RML HPD ARX-01d 3m49.347s 26. LMP2 Barlesi/Da Rocha/Lafargue Oak Pescarolo-Judd 3m52.363s 27. GTE P Farfus/Muller/Werner BMW M3 3m59.028s 28. GTE P Priaulx/Muller/Hand BMW M3 3m59.414s 29. GTE P Gavin/Magnussen/Westbrook Corvette C6 ZR1 4m00.467s 30. GTE P Goossens/Holzer/Van Lagen Prospeed Porsche 4m00.654s 31. GTE P Beretta/Milner/Garcia Corvette C6 ZR1 4m00.763s 32. GTE P Lieb/Lietz/Henzler Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 4m01.056s 33. GTE P Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander AF Corse Ferrari 4m01.558s 34. GTE P Farnbacher/Simonsen/Keen Farnbacher Ferrari 4m01.751s 35. GTE P Ortelli/Makowiecki/Melo Luxury Racing Ferrari 4m02.283s 36. GTE P Bergmeister/Long/Luhr Flying Lizard 4m02.875s 37. GTE P Dolan/Hancock/Buncombe Jota Aston Martin 4m03.075s 38. GTE P Bell/Sugden/Maasen JMW Ferrari 4m03.090s 39. GTE P Al Faisal/Tandy/Miller Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 4m03.393s 40. GTE P Kauffman/Waltrip/Aguas AF Corse Ferrari 4m04.047s 41. GTE A Giroix/Goethe/Wainwright Gulf Aston Martin 4m04.702s 42. GTE P Beltoise/Jakubowski/Thiret Luxury Racing Ferrari 4m05.829s 43. LMP2 Rosier/Haezbrouck/Fournoux Extreme Limite Norma-Judd 4m06.234s 44. GTE A Niemen/Law/Pumpelly Flying Lizard Porsche 4m06.266s 45. GTE A Krohn/Jonsson/Rugulo Krohn Ferrari 4m06.328s 46. GTE A Bornhauser/Canal/Gardel Larbre Porsche 4m06.886s 47. GTE A Bourret/Gibon/Belloc Larbre Porsche 4m06.897s 48. GTE P Pilet/Narac/Armindo IMSA Performance Porsche 4m08.179s 49. GTE A Felbermayr/Felbermayr/Ried Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 4m08.728s 50. GTE A Perazzini/Cioci/Breslin AF Corse Ferrari 4m08.910s 51. GTE P Hirschi/Rossiter/Mowlem Jetalliance Lotus Evora 4m09.404s 52. GTE A Robertson/Robertson/Murry Robertson Ford-Doran 4m13.085s 53. GTE A Ehret/Lynn/Wills CRS Ferrari 4m13.752s 54. GTE A Rodrigues/Menahem/Marrioc JMB ORECA 4m13.986s 55. GTE P Rich/Slingerland/Hartshorne Jetalliance Lotus Evora 4m17.334s 56. LMP2 Tucker/Bouchut/Barbosa Level 5 Lola-Honda no time
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