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Peugeot's Sarrazin on provisional pole

Stephane SarrazinPeugeot sprang a surprise in Wednesday night's two-hour qualifying practice session as Stephane Sarrazin set provisional pole long after it had seemed the order was settled in favour of Audi.

The German manufacturer was provisionally 1-2-3 after pushing hardest when track conditions were optimal during the first 30 minutes of the session, but Sarrazin undercut all three R18s by 0.9 seconds with a sensational lap half an hour from the chequered flag. The session was later red-flagged with a minute left to run when Nick Leventis crashed the Strakka HPD.

Allan McNish set the early pace in the #3 R18 but was held up by a Porsche in the final sector on his first flying lap and posted a 3m29.078s, while Mike Rockenfeller benefitted from the 911 belatedly scuttling out of McNish's path to flash by in 3m27.949s.

Traffic also hampered the Peugeot drivers' efforts to better the Audis during this opening phase. Alex Wurz lost several seconds in the final sector, where the slower cars cannot easily move off the racing line, stopping the clock at 3m30.354s. He bettered it next time around with a 3m28.796s but this was not quite enough to go ahead of the Audis.

Sebastien Bourdais was next quickest in the #9 Peugeot on 3m29.466. Neither car improved on these times for the duration of the session.

As the light dwindled Tom Kristensen took over the #3 Audi from McNish, but it was Andre Lotterer who would go fastest of all in the #2 R18 with 3m27.939s, while Kristensen improved the #3's time to 3m28.301s, still the slowest of the three. Wurz pitted for fresh tyres but was unable to improve his time, once again owing to the intervention of traffic.

With the most frantic phase of the session over, Audi pulled its cars in for bodywork changes as it evaluated a variety of different downforce and headlight packages.

The session was red-flagged after 55 minutes when Romain Dumas rounded the Mulsanne kink at speed in the #1 Audi and found Roald Goethe's Gulf AMR Aston Martin Vantage stationary at the exit. During the five-minute stoppage both cars were removed to parc ferme.

Audi and Peugeot continued to work through their respective programmes until Peugeot let Sarrazin loose on fresh tyres 90 minutes in. The Frenchman found a clear lap and made the most of it to post a time of 3m27.033, pushing the Lotterer/Fassler/Treluyer Audi down to second and the smashed Rockenfeller/Dumas/Bernhard car to third.

Le Mans veteran Emmanuel Collard put the #16 Pescarolo-Judd firmly at the head of the petrol-powered LMP1s with a 3m35.456s at the beginning of the session, nearly two seconds ahead of the best time summoned by the quickest Rebellion Lola-Toyota.

Aston Martin had another troubled session. Christian Klien lost the front left wing of the #007 Aston Martin 20 minutes into the session, which consigned the car to the garage for lengthy repairs, while Adrian Fernandez briefly halted the #009 out on track five minutes later.

Strakka Racing snatched the LMP2 lead from the Signatech ORECA-Nissan, also after the sweet spot for fast laps had supposedly ended. Jonny Kane got aboard the HPD ARX.01 nearly 40 minutes into the session and went through in 3m42.615, nearly half a second quicker than Signatech's Franck Mailleux.

Unfortunately for Strakka, Leventis crashed the HPD at the Dunlop bridge at the end of the session, causing another red flag.

The GTE Pro class was fiercely contested during the opening half hour as more cars slipped under the four-minute mark. BMW remained the pacesetters as the #56 Joey Hand/Andy Priaulx/Dirk Muller M3 GT set a 3m58.426s, followed by the Gianmaria Bruni/Toni Vilander/Giancarlo Fisichella AF Corse Ferrari 458 on 3m58.989 and the Augusto Farfus/Dirk Werner/Jorg Muller BMW on 3m59.321s.

Larbre Competition's Porsche 911 driven by Christophe Bourret, Pascal Gibon and Jean-Phillippe Belloc led GTE Am by a relatively healthy margin. Its 4m03.918s was 0.8s quicker than the second-placed #81 Flying Lizard Porsche. Spencer Pumpelly set that car's fastest time of 4m04.747s in the final minutes of the session.

The #60 Gulf AMR Aston Martin Vantage remained third quickest despite spending the balance of the session out of action.

Pos  Cl     Drivers                       Team/Car                     Time
 1.  LMP1   Montagny/Sarrazin/Minassian   Peugeot 908                  3m27.033s
 2.  LMP1   Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer     Audi R18 TDI                 3m27.939s
 3.  LMP1   Bernhard/Dumas/Rockenfeller   Audi R18 TDI                 3m27.949s
 4.  LMP1   Capello/Kristensen/McNish     Audi R18 TDI                 3m28.301s
 5.  LMP1   Gene/Wurz/Davidson            Peugeot 908                  3m28.796s
 6.  LMP1   Lamy/Bourdais/Pagenaud        Peugeot 908                  3m29.466s
 7.  LMP1   Lapierre/Duval/Panis          ORECA Peugeot 908 Hdi-FAP    3m30.084s
 8.  LMP1   Collard/Tinseau/Jousse        Pescarolo-Judd               3m35.456s
 9.  LMP1   Jani/Prost/Bleekemolen        Rebellion Lola-Toyota        3m37.404s
10.  LMP1   Belicchi/Boullion/Smith       Rebellion Lola-Toyota        3m38.351s
11.  LMP1   Monteiro/Moreau/Ragues        Oak Pescarolo-Judd           3m39.672s
12.  LMP1   Amaral/Pla/Hughes             Quifel-ASM Zytek             3m41.019s
13.  LMP2   Leventis/Watts/Kane           Strakka HPD ARX-01d          3m42.615s
14.  LMP2   Mailleux/Ordonez/Ayari        Signatech ORECA-Nissan       3m43.124s
15.  LMP2   Premat/Hallyday/Kraihamer     Oreca-Nissan                 3m43.654s
16.  LMP2   Ojjeh/Kimber-Smith/Lombard    Greaves Zytek-Nissan         3m43.814s
17.  LMP2   Frey/Meichtry/Rostan          Race Performance ORECA-Judd  3m44.294s
18.  LMP1   Ickx/Martin/Leinders          Kronos Aston Martin          3m44.415s
19.  LMP2   Perez Companc/Russo/Kaffer    Pecom Lola-Judd              3m45.997s
20.  LMP2   Erdos/Newton/Collins          RML HPD ARX-01d              3m47.308s
21.  LMP1   Zacchia/Lammers/Elgaard       Hope ORECA                   3m47.691s
22.  LMP2   Nakano/De Crem/Charouz        Oak Racing Pescarolo-BMW     3m48.211s
23.  LMP1   Hein/Nicolet/Yvon             Oak Pescarolo-Judd           3m48.852s
24.  LMP2   Tucker/Bouchut/Barbosa        Level 5 Lola-Honda           3m51.149s
25.  LMP2   Rosier/Haezbrouck/Fournoux    Extreme Limite Norma-Judd    3m51.438s
26.  LMP1   Primat/Fernandez/Meyrick      Aston Martin AMR-One         3m56.637s
27.  LMP1   Mucke/Turner/Klien            Aston Martin AMR-One         3m56.847s
28.  LMP2   Barlesi/Da Rocha/Lafargue     Oak Pescarolo-Judd           3m57.453s
29.  GTE P  Priaulx/Muller/Hand           BMW M3                       3m58.426s
30.  GTE P  Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander     AF Corse Ferrari             3m58.989s
31.  GTE P  Farfus/Muller/Werner          BMW M3                       3m59.321s
32.  GTE P  Gavin/Magnussen/Westbrook     Corvette C6 ZR1              3m59.519s
33.  GTE P  Beretta/Milner/Garcia         Corvette C6 ZR1              3m59.633s
34.  GTE P  Ortelli/Makowiecki/Melo       Luxury Racing Ferrari        3m59.901s
35.  GTE P  Goossens/Holzer/Van Lagen     Prospeed Porsche             3m59.962s
36.  GTE P  Lieb/Lietz/Henzler            Felbermayr-Proton Porsche    3m59.998s
37.  GTE P  Farnbacher/Simonsen/Keen      Farnbacher Ferrari           4m00.260s
38.  GTE P  Dolan/Hancock/Buncombe        Jota Aston Martin            4m00.747s
39.  GTE P  Bergmeister/Long/Luhr         Flying Lizard                4m01.480s
40.  GTE P  Beltoise/Jakubowski/Thiret    Luxury Racing Ferrari        4m02.017s
41.  GTE P  Al Faisal/Tandy/Miller        Felbermayr-Proton Porsche    4m02.049s
42.  GTE A  Bourret/Gibon/Belloc          Larbre Porsche               4m03.918s
43.  GTE A  Niemen/Law/Pumpelly           Flying Lizard Porsche        4m04.747s
44.  GTE A  Giroix/Goethe/Wainwright      Gulf Aston Martin            4m04.825s
45.  GTE A  Felbermayr/Felbermayr/Ried    Felbermayr-Proton Porsche    4m05.154s
46.  GTE A  Krohn/Jonsson/Rugulo          Krohn Ferrari                4m05.856s
47.  GTE A  Bornhauser/Canal/Gardel       Larbre Porsche               4m05.955s
48.  GTE P  Bell/Sugden/Maasen            JMW Ferrari                  4m06.884s
49.  GTE P  Hirschi/Rossiter/Mowlem       Jetalliance Lotus Evora      4m07.465s
50.  GTE P  Kauffman/Waltrip/Aguas        AF Corse Ferrari             4m08.213s
51.  GTE A  Perazzini/Cioci/Breslin       AF Corse Ferrari             4m10.316s
52.  GTE A  Rodrigues/Menahem/Marroc      JMB ORECA                    4m10.335s
53.  GTE P  Rich/Slingerland/Hartshorne   Jetalliance Lotus Evora      4m17.379s
54.  GTE A  Ehret/Lynn/Wills              CRS Ferrari                  4m26.249s
55.  GTE A  Robertson/Robertson/Murry     Robertson Racing Ford-Doran  no time
56.  GTE P  Pilet/Narac/Armindo           IMSA Performance Porsche     no time
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Rockenfeller puts Audi top in practice