Peugeot's Sarrazin on provisional pole

Peugeot 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

Peugeot's Sarrazin on provisional pole

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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