Audi edged closer to victory in the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours as Andre Lotterer in the #2 R18 built up a sizeable lead of 1m22s over the nearest #9 Peugeot of Simon Pagenaud heading into the final hour of the race.
Peugeot had got back in touch with the lead following a brief, tricky spell of rain, but as the track dried out Audi again had the faster car and Lotterer edged away from the Simon Pagenaud in the #9 Peugeot lap by lap.
It was not all plain sailing for Lotterer however, after a controversial clash with Marc Gene in the #8 Peugeot.
Lotterer had been trying to put another lap on Gene in fourth, but the Spaniard pushed the limits of an acceptable defence as he fought to keep the Audi behind - with the pair even making contact down the Mulsanne straight, before Lotterer eventually found a way through.
Only Lotterer and Pagenaud remain on the lead lap, and with both needing to make at least one further stop it is advantage Audi heading into the race's climax.
Nicolas Minassian is third in the #8 Peugeot ahead of Gene in the sister #7 and Nicolas Lapierre in the #10 Matmut Peugeot.
Neel Jani in the #12 Rebellion Lola meanwhile is the sole remaining LMP1 gasoline car, after a heavy crash for the #16 Pescarolo in the previous hour.
The #41 Zytek-Nissan continues to dominate in LMP2, with Olivier Lombard enjoying a lead of more than eight laps over Soheil Ayari in the #26 Signatech Nissan, which in turn is just one lap ahead of the #33 Level 5 Motorsports Lola-HPD.
Having caught and passed the #51 AF Corse Ferrari, Tommy Milner showed no signs of slowing down in the #73 Corvette and had built a lead of more than one minute in GTE Pro heading into the final hour of the race.
Milner handed over to Antonio Garcia 63 minutes from the end, while Giancarlo Fisichella will complete the #51 Ferrari 458's final stint.
Over in the GTE Am class, the #50 Larbre Chevrolet leads the #70 Larbre Porsche by 55s.
- Jan Magnussen lost control of the GTE Pro-leading #74 Chevrolet Corvette and crashed into the #63 Proton Porsche during the 17th hour, putting both cars out.
- Jean-Christophe Boullion crashed the Rebellion Lola-Toyota in the 14th hour at the Porsche Curves. He had been running eighth at the time of the shunt.
- Mike Rockenfeller was taken to hospital following a frightening accident that totally destroyed the #1 Audi in the seventh hour of the race. The German had been running third when he made contact with a GTE Ferrari at kink after Mulsanne. Audi later confirmed that the German would be kept in overnight for observation but that he was OK.
- The #3 Audi of Allan McNish crashed out of the race in the first hour having just taken second position. The Scot collected the #58 Luxury Racing Ferrari in the right-hander after the Dunlop Bridge. The heavy impact destroyed the car and McNish was taken to hospital for precautionary checks, but was later released with an all-clear.
- Both Aston Martin AMR Ones ran into trouble on the first lap of the race. Darren Turner spinning with mechanical trouble and Adrian Fernandez stopping out on the Mulsanne. The #007 car of Turner was recovered to the pits where it was discovered an alternator belt tensioner was to blame.
POSITIONS AFTER 23 HOURS
Pos Car Team Class Gap
1. #2 Audi Audi Sport Team Joest (LMP1)
2. #9 Peugeot Team Peugeot Total (LMP1) + 1:21.688
3. #8 Peugeot Peugeot Sport Total (LMP1) + 2 Laps
4. #7 Peugeot Peugeot Sport Total (LMP1) + 4 Laps
5. #10 Peugeot Team Oreca-Matmut (LMP1) + 16 Laps
6. #12 Lola Rebellion Racing (LMP1) + 16 Laps
7. #22 Lola Kronos Racing (LMP1) + 26 Laps
8. #41 Zytek Greaves Motorsport (LMP2) + 27 Laps
9. #26 Oreca Signatech Nissan (LMP2) + 34 Laps
10. #33 Lola Level 5 Motorsports (LMP2) + 34 Laps
11. #73 Corvette Corvette Racing (GTEP) + 39 Laps
12. #51 Ferrari AF Corse (GTEP) + 39 Laps
13. #49 OAK OAK Racing (LMP2) + 40 Laps
14. #36 HPD RML (LMP2) + 40 Laps
15. #56 BMW BMW Motorsport (GTEP) + 40 Laps
16. #77 Porsche Team Felbermayr-Proton (GTEP) + 41 Laps
17. #76 Porsche IMSA Performance Matmut (GTEP) + 42 Laps
18. #80 Porsche Flying Lizard Motorsports (GTEP) + 43 Laps
19. #40 Oreca Race Performance (LMP2) + 49 Laps
20. #50 Corvette Larbre Competition (GTEA) + 50 Laps
21. #70 Porsche Larbre Competition (GTEA) + 50 Laps
22. #65 Lotus Lotus Jetalliance (GTEP) + 57 Laps
23. #35 OAK OAK Racing (LMP2) + 60 Laps
24. #75 Porsche Prospeed Competition (GTEP) + 60 Laps
25. #66 Ferrari JMW Motorsport (GTEP) + 63 Laps
26. #83 Ferrari JMB Racing (GTEA) + 67 Laps
27. #68 Ford Robertson Racing (GTEA) + 67 Laps
28. #44 Norma Extr (LMP2) + 107 Laps
29. #16 Pescarolo Pescarolo Team (LMP1) + 32 Laps
30. #55 BMW BMW Motorsport (GTEP) + 61 Laps
31. #74 Corvette Corvette Racing (GTEP) + 126 Laps
32. #81 Porsche Flying Lizard Motorsports (GTEA) + 126 Laps
33. #48 Oreca Team Oreca-Matmut (LMP2) + 137 Laps
34. #63 Porsche Proton Competition (GTEA) + 138 Laps
35. #13 Lola Rebellion Racing (LMP1) Retired
36. #61 Ferrari AF Corse (GTEA) + 149 Laps
37. #59 Ferrari Luxury Racing (GTEP) + 154 Laps
38. #71 Ferrari AF Corse (GTEP) + 159 Laps
39. #88 Porsche Team Felbermayr-Proton (GTEP) + 168 Laps
40. #42 HPD Strakka Racing (LMP2) Retired
41. #60 Aston Gulf AMR Middle East (GTEA) Retired
42. #39 Lola PeCom Racing (LMP2) Retired
43. #89 Ferrari Hankook Team Farnbacher (GTEP) Retired
44. #58 Ferrari Luxury Racing (GTEP) + 201 Laps
45. #64 Lotus Lotus Jetalliance (GTEP) Retired
46. #57 Ferrari Krohn Racing (GTEA) Retired
47. #24 OAK OAK Racing (LMP1) Retired
48. #1 Audi Audi Sport Team Joest (LMP1) Retired
49. #5 Oreca Hope Racing (LMP1) Retired
50. #62 Ferrari CRS Racing (GTEA) Retired
51. #15 OAK OAK Racing (LMP1) Retired
52. #79 Aston Jota (GTEP) Retired
53. #20 Zytek Quifel-ASM Team (LMP1) Retired
54. #3 Audi Audi Sport North America (LMP1) Retired
55. #007 AMR-One Aston Martin Racing (LMP1) Retired
56. #009 AMR-One Aston Martin Racing (LMP1) Retired