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Rockenfeller puts Audi top in practice

Mike Rockenfeller, Audi R18 TDIAudi 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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