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Loic Duval put the No. 3 Audi R18 Ultra on provisional pole for the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours with a spectacular lap of 3m24.078s.
Times had already fallen prior to Duval's effort, with his teammate Romain Dumas getting to within five tenths of a second of Andre Lotterer's overnight benchmark in the No. 1 e-tron quattro, before the man himself dropped down to a 3m24.997s, at the time putting him 0.861sec clear.
That was shattered with 30 minutes of the session remaining however, as Duval pulled more than nine tenths of a second clear of the field – a margin that could gain even more significance if the expected rain arrives during Thursday evening's third qualifying practice.
Allan McNish's effort of 3m26.038s, set at the end of a six-lap stint, was enough to secure third for the No. 2 R18 e-tron he shares with Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello.
Anthony Davidson prevented an Audi top-four sweep by securing fourth in the No. 8 Toyota TS 030 Hybrid. The Briton had just about matched Duval in the first two sectors of his fastest lap – making up most of the time he surrendered in the first split over the second – but lost a significant chunk in the final sector and ended just over two seconds down on the Frenchman.
The No. 4 Audi R18 Ultra of Oliver Jarvis, Marco Bonanomi and Mike Rockenfeller found just over one second from Wednesday's opening qualifying session but remained fifth fastest, just ahead of the second Toyota of Nicolas Lapierre, Alexander Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima.
Nakajima had put the No. 7 TS030 as high as third before those around him improved, while Lapierre lost the rear of the car and ran through the grass at the entrance of the Ford chicane.
Danny Watts kept the No. 21 Strakka HPD as the top independent in seventh, just ahead of Neil Jani's No. 12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota.
As was the case on Wednesday LMP2 remained incredibly close, with less than one second covering the top six for the majority of the two hours. Toward the close, however, OAK's Olivier Pla – already fastest at the time – improved to a 3m38.698s, pulling more than half a second clear of the No. 26 Signatech and No. 46 TDS ORECA-Nissans.
There were further complications for the DeltaWing Nissan, which dropped to 28th overall after a session truncated by technical issues.
Across in GTE Pro Frederic Makowiecki put the No. 59 Luxury Racing Ferrari top, moving just over four tenths of a second clear of the No. 97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Darren Turner, Setfan Mucke and Adrian Fernandez.
The No. 74 Corvette of Richard Westbrook, Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner did not improve on Wednesday's showing but remained third, less than six tenths of a second down on Makowiecki.
Flying Lizard's No. 79 GTE Am pace-setting Porsche likewise did not improve from Wednesday but still finished as the sixth-fastest GTE car, and over four tenths clear of its nearest competition, Prospeed's No. 75 911.