Loic Duval hung on to pole position for the 81st running of the Le Mans 24 Hours, as Audi scored its first sweep of the top three grid spots since 2002 at the circuit.
Frenchman Duval moved to the top of the time sheets early on during Wednesday night's first session, setting a 3m22.349s in the #2 R18 e-tron quattro he shares with Briton Allan McNish and Dane Tom Kristensen.
A combination of bad weather and several red flag interruptions had effectively frozen the times after the opening hour of Wednesday's first session, making late improvements seem unlikely. That all changed in Thursday night's third and final session as a drying track helped qualifying come alive in the final 20 minutes.
First two-time Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer and then Lucas di Grassi in the respective #1 and #3 R18s threatened to dislodge Duval by setting new outright best times in the first sector. On each occasion though they were thwarted by lingering patches of damp track, the legacy of a heavy shower that hit La Sarthe just before the start of second qualifying.
Duval's Wednesday best therefore proved enough to capture pole, 1.347 seconds ahead of the Lotterer/Marcel Fassler/Treluyer car. Oliver Jarvis, sharing with di Grassi and Marc Gene, put the #3 diesel hybrid third.
Toyota never mounted a serious pole challenge, with both its TS030 Hybrids more than 4sec down on Duval's pace-setting time. Stephane Sarrazin did at least improve in the final moments, vaulting the #8 car he shares with Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi ahead of the sister #7 machine. The Japanese marque's victory hopes could be boosted should it be able to stretch its fuel advantage over Audi, a dynamic it spent time evaluating during the final two qualifying stints.
Rebellion's #12 and #13 Lola-Toyotas ended sixth and seventh, respectively, just ahead of the #21 Strakka HPD of Jonny Kane/Nick Leventis/Danny Watts. Kane had been the cause of one of the four red flags that affected qualifying when he went off at the second Mulsanne chicane during the final hour on Thursday night.
GTE Am racer Christophe Bourret in the #76 Imsa Porsche, LMP2 driver Matt Downs in the #40 Boutsen Ginion ORECA-Nissan and Pierre Thiriet's #46 TDS ORECA were the other drivers to cause stoppages. The TDS machine did not get out at all during the night sessions and will have to wait for official dispensation to be allowed to start the race.
The battle for LMP2 pole was settled as the checkered flag flew, with Olivier Pla snatching top spot in the #24 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan he shares with Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson. The #26 G-Drive squad had looked set to claim pole until that moment, with John Martin putting the car more than a second clear of the field on Wednesday. Oliver Turvey was another late improver, jumping to third late on in the #38 Jota Zytek-Nissan.
GTE Pro staged a similarly frantic finish, with two changes of the lead in as many minutes. Stefan Mucke had moved to provisional pole in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage, only to be denied moments later by Frederic Makowiecki in the sister #99 machine. The Frenchman's last-gasp flyer was nearly a second faster than Mucke, who was just fractions ahead of the lead #92 Manthey-run factory Porsche and the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni. Corvette, meanwhile, struggled to match the front-running pace, with the #74 C6.R four seconds off the pace.
Aston Martin also claimed class honors over in GTE Am, as the #95 Vantage of Allan Simonsen, Kristian Poulsen and Christoffer Nygaard finished more than a second clear of a chasing pack led by Paolo Ruberti's #88 Proton Porsche – Simonsen improving by exactly that amount on his final lap of Thursday night.
Class rival Tracy Krohn's #57 Ferrari, which crashed heavily in practice, did manage to get out for some laps with Maurizio Mediani at the wheel of the car.
Pos Cl Drivers Team/Car Time Gap
1. P1 Kristensen/McNish/Duval Audi 3m22.349s
2. P1 di Grassi/Gene/Jarvis Audi 3m23.696s +1.347s
3. P1 Lotterer/Treluyer/Fassler Audi 3m24.341s +1.992s
4. P1 Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin Toyota 3m26.654s +4.305s
5. P1 Wurz/Lapierre/Nakajima Toyota 3m26.676s +4.327s
6. P1 Prost/Jani/Heidfeld Rebellion Lola-Toyota 3m28.935s +6.586s
7. P1 Belicchi/Beche/Cheng Rebellion Lola-Toyota 3m32.167s +9.818s
8. P1 Kane/Watts/Leventis Strakka HPD 3m36.547s +14.198s
9. P2 Pla/Heinemeier Hansson/Brundle OAK Morgan-Nissan 3m38.621s +16.272s
10. P2 Rusinov/M.Martin/Conway Delta-ADR ORECA-Nissan 3m39.535s +17.186s
11. P2 Dolan/Turvey/Luhr Jota Zytek-Nissan 3m40.459s +18.110s
12. P2 Gachnang/Mailleux/Lombard Morand Morgan-Judd 3m40.741s +18.392s
13. P2 Graves/Nakano/Hamilton Delta-ADR ORECA-Nissan 3m40.925s +18.576s
14. P2 Imperatori/Tung/Howson KCMG Morgan-Nissan 3m41.042s +18.693s
15. P2 Hartley/Patterson/Chandhok Murphy ORECA-Nissan 3m41.569s +19.220s
16. P2 Panciatici/Ragues/Gommendy Signatech ORECA-Nissan 3m41.654s +19.305s
17. P2 Baguette/Gonzalez/Plowman OAK Morgan-Nissan 3m41.854s +19.505s
18. P2 Perez Companc/Minassian/Kaffer Pecom ORECA-Nissan 3m43.420s +21.071s
19. P2 Thiriet/Badey/M.Martin TDS ORECA-Nissan 3m43.494s +21.145s
20. P2 Mardenborough/Ordonez/Krumm Greaves Zytek-Nissan 3m44.421s +22.072s
21. P2 Kimber-Smith/Rossi/Lux Greaves Zytek-Nissan 3m44.621s +22.272s
22. P2 Frey/Niederhauser/Bleekemolen Race Perf' ORECA-Judd 3m45.244s +22.895s
23. P2 Holzer/Kraihamer/Charouz Lotus-Praga 3m45.274s +22.925s
24. P2 Weeda/Rossiter/Bouchut Lotus-Praga 3m47.920s +25.571s
25. P2 Nicolet/Merlin/Mondolot OAK Morgan-Nissan 3m48.196s +25.847s
26. P2 Tucker/Franchitti/Briscoe Level 5 HPD 3m48.597s +26.248s
27. P2 Giroix/Haezebrouck/Ihara Gulf Lola-Nissan 3m49.096s +26.747s
28. P2 Mowlem/Burgess/Hirschi HVM Status Lola-Judd 3m49.805s +27.456s
29. GTP Bell/Makowiecki/Senna Aston Martin 3m54.635s +32.286s
30. GTP Dumbreck/Mucke/Turner Aston Martin 3m55.445s +33.096s
31. GTP Lieb/Lietz/Dumas Manthey Porsche 3m55.491s +33.142s
32. GTP Bruni/Fisichella/Malucelli AF Corse Ferrari 3m55.909s +33.560s
33. GTP Auberlen/Dalla Lana/Lamy Aston Martin 3m56.336s +33.987s
34. GTP Beretta/Kobayashi/Vilander AF Corse Ferrari 3m56.471s +34.122s
35. GTP Bergmeister/Pilet/Bernhard Manthey Porsche 3m56.573s +34.224s
36. P2 Porta/Raffin/Brandela DKR Lola-Judd 3m56.905s +34.556s
37. P2 Downs/Dagoneau/Younessi Boutsen ORECA-Nissan 3m57.139s +34.790s
38. GTA Nygaard/Poulsen/Simonsen Aston Martin 3m57.776s +35.427s
39. GTP Westbrook/Gavin/Milner Corvette 3m58.644s +36.295s
40. GTA Ried/Roda/Ruberti Proton Porsche 3m58.889s +36.540s
41. GTP Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor Corvette 3m59.526s +37.177s
42. GTA Hall/Goethe/Campbell-Walter Aston Martin 3m59.805s +37.456s
43. GTA Gerber/Griffin/Cioci AF Ferrari 3m59.997s +37.648s
44. GTA Milesi/Gibon/Henzler Imsa Porsche 4m00.503s +38.154s
45. GTP Collard/Perrodo/Crubile Prospeed Porsche 4m00.682s +38.333s
46. GTP Dalziel/Farnbacher/Goossens SRT Viper 4m00.802s +38.453s
47. GTA Dempsey/Foster/Long Dempsey Porsche 4m00.916s +38.567s
48. GTA Narac/Bourret/Vernay Imsa Porsche 4m01.713s +39.364s
49. GTA Potolicchio/Aguas/Bright 8star Ferrari 4m01.934s +39.585s
50. GTP Bomarito/Kendall/Wittmer SRT Viper 4m03.461s +41.112s
51. GTA Perazzini/Case/O'Young AF Corse Ferrari 4m03.966s +41.617s
52. GTA MacNeil/Rodrigues/Dumas Larbre Corvette 4m04.512s +42.163s
53. GTA Bornhauser/Canal/Taylor Larbre Corvette 4m04.873s +42.524s
54. GTP Bertolini/Al Faisal/Al Qubaisi JMW Ferrari 4m05.417s +43.068s
55. GTA Mallegol/Bachelier/Blank AF Ferrari 4m09.064s +46.715s
56. GTA Krohn/Jonsson/Mediani Krohn Ferrari 4m16.233s +53.884s