A technical change and a safety car period brought Audi's leading cars back into play during the fifth hour of the race, although the #8 Peugeot 908 driven by Sebastien Bourdais continues to lead.
Both the #1 and #2 Audi R15s had their noses changed during routine pit stops at the beginning of the hour, costing each car 20 seconds, but Rinaldo Capello immediately found extra speed and caught and passed teammate Marco Werner for third place.
"We needed to try something, and so we put on the new noses," said Lucas Luhr.
The safety car was scrambled after Stuart Hall's #009 Aston Martin hit the #26 Bruichladdich Bruneau Radical-Zytek of Tim Greaves on the approach to the Ford chicane while trying to make way for a faster Audi. Greaves brought his severely damaged car into the pits, followed by all the leading cars.
Peugeot took the opportunity to execute driver changes. Alex Wurz is now at the wheel of #9 and Pedro Lamy got back in to #7.
Jos Verstappen leads the pursuit of the diesels in the #008 Aston Martin LMP1, 8 seconds ahead of Simon Pagenaud 's #17 Pescarolo Peugeot 908. Pagenaud has demoted the #007, now driven by Jan Charouz, to seventh place.
The beleagured #3 Audi of Timo Bernhard was very slow getting up to racing speed at the end of the safety car period and promptly came into the pits. The Audi crew immediately wheeled it back into the garage. Capello attempted to challenge Wurz at the restart but once again the Peugeot stretched its legs and eased away.
Keisuke Kunimoto snatched the LMP2 lead from Kristian Poulsen after the restart and began to pull away in the Navi Team Goh Porsche RS Spyder.
The GT1 battle is still led by the #63 Corvette with Antonio Garcia at the wheel. He is now almost two minutes ahead of teammate Marcel Fassler in the #64 car.
Raymond Narac continues to lead the GT2 class after being handed a lucky break by the safety car. The #80 Flying Lizard Porsche, now driven by Seth Neiman, pitted at the wrong time and dropped from second in class to fifth.
Mika Salo is now second in GT2 in the #82 Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT, but he has had to serve a stop-and-go penalty for short-cutting a chicane.