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Last year's Le Mans 24 Hours winner Andre Lotterer made Le Mans history on Thursday night when he secured the first pole position for a hybrid car on the 80th running of the race at La Sarthe.
The German's No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro set a blistering 3m23.787s lap early in the final qualifying session, ensuring the 2011 event winning crew of Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer will pick up where it left off a year ago.
Toyota's challenge for pole on its return to frontline endurance competition fizzled out at the flag, with Anthony Davidson setting a nevertheless impressive third-fastest time overall.
Lotterer set his time early in the final two-hour session as dusk fell, bumping the No. 3 R18 Ultra of Romain Dumas, Loic Duval and Marc Gene to second. The hybrid machine was never headed again.
"It was not a perfect lap," said Lotterer. "I did not get all the perfect sectors together, but I think we can still be happy."
The expected final dash for pole came when Davidson brought the No. 8 Toyota TS030 into the pits with 15 minutes to go and bolted on a fresh set of slicks. The time that resulted from that – a 3m24.842s – was good enough to put the brand-new car third on the grid, behind the No. 3 Audi, whose best time had been set by Dumas during in Thursday's first session.
Davidson did attempt a second lap, but came upon Tom Kristensen in the No. 2 R18 e-tron on an out-lap as the cars headed back through the chicanes towards the pits. The Englishman's lap was unlikely to have got him pole even before the delay, however.
Kristensen had taken over from Allan McNish for a couple of laps at the end of the session but it was near the start of it that he set the time that secured the No. 2 car fourth on the grid.
Kazuki Nakajima set a late flyer in the No. 7 Toyota, pushing the No. 4 Audi driven by Le Mans rookies Marco Bonanomi and Oliver Jarvis (joined by former winner Mike Rockenfeller) back to sixth.
Danny Watts's time before the break was enough to give Strakka Racing seventh on the grid – and best of the non-hybrid gasoline cars as he broke the 3m30s barrier with the HPD – ahead the two Rebellion Lolas.
"I really enjoyed my fastest lap," said Watts. "I was thoroughly in the zone, focused and concentrated. It was one of those balls-on-the-line laps which came off."
The Pescarolo Dome completed the top 10, but also ended its evening in the barriers at the exit of the Porsche Curves having made contact with a Zytek, and that incident briefly brought out the red flag.
John Martin gave ADR-Delta pole in the LMP2 battle as he moved ahead of Olivier Pla's Morgan-Judd, which had a spin early in the session. The No. 26 Signatech Nissan will start third. The Brundles' Greaves Zytek will start the race 11th in class and 24th overall.
Frederic Makowiecki took his second pole position in as many weeks as he set the pace for Luxury Racing Ferrari in GTE Pro (the Frenchman was also fastest in the FIA GT event for Hexis McLaren at the Slovakia ring last weekend).
The factory Aston Martin was an impressive second in class thanks to Darren Turner's efforts before the break while Oliver Gavin's time from yesterday was good enough to secure third position in class for Corvette.
AF Corse performed miracles with the No. 51 Ferrari F458, which had been effectively written off and required a new chassis after Giancarlo Fisichella's shunt at the Porsche Curves on Wednesday, to get it back on track with 30 minutes to go. That allowed Toni Vilander to qualify the car 49th overall and last of the GTE Pro runners.
The No. 79 Flying Lizard Porsche driven by Darren Law, Seth Neiman and Spencer Pumpelly took pole position in the GTE Am class.
Pos Cl Drivers Team/Car Time
1. P1 Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer Audi e-tron 3m23.787s
2. P1 Dumas/Duval/Gene Audi Ultra 3m24.078s
3. P1 Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin Toyota 3m24.842s
4. P1 Capello/Kristensen/McNish Audi e-tron 3m25.433s
5. P1 Wurz/Lapierre/Nakajima Toyota 3m25.488s
6. P1 Bonanomi/Jarvis/Rockenfeller Audi Ultra 3m26.420s
7. P1 Leventis/Watts/Kane Strakka HPD 3m29.622s
8. P1 Prost/Jani/Heidfeld Rebellion Lola-Toyota 3m29.837s
9. P1 Belicchi/Primat/Bleekemolen Rebellion Lola-Toyota 3m31.866s
10. P1 Ara/Minassian/Bourdais Pescarolo Dome-Judd 3m33.066s
11. P1 Brabham/Chandhok/Dumbreck JRM HPD 3m35.421s
12. P1 Montagny/Baguette/Kraihamer OAK Pescarolo-Judd 3m35.584s
13. P1 Collard/Boullion/Hall Pescarolo-Judd 3m37.485s
14. P2 Martin/Charouz/Graves ADR ORECA-Nissan 3m38.181s
15. P2 Nicolet/Lahaye/Pla OAK Morgan-Judd 3m38.598s
16. P2 Panciatici/Ragues/Rusinov Signatech ORECA-Nissan 3m39.152s
17. P2 Beche/Thiriet/Tinseau TDS ORECA-Nissan 3m39.252s
18. P2 Perez-Companc/Ayari/Kaffer Pecom ORECA-Nissan 3m39.711s
19. P2 Firth/Hughes/Hartley Murphy ORECA-Nissan 3m39.877s
20. P2 Heinemeier Hansson/Leinders/Martin OAK Morgan-Nissan 3m39.899s
21. P2 Sims/Buurman/Iannetta Status Lola-Judd 3m40.280s
22. P2 Potolicchio/Dalziel/Kimber-Smith Starworks HPD-Honda 3m40.471s
23. P2 Briere/Petersen/Nakano Boutsen ORECA-Nissan 3m40.727s
24. P2 Ordonez/Brundle/Brundle Greaves Zytek-Nissan 3m40.738s
25. P2 Dolan/Hancock/Kurosawa Jota Zytek-Nissan 3m41.287s
26. P2 Mailleux/Lombard/Tresson Signatech ORECA-Nissan 3m41.982s
27. P2 Tucker/Bouchut/Diaz Level 5 HPD-Honda 3m42.224s
28. P2 Zugel/Gonzalez/Julian Greaves Zytek-Nissan 3m42.292s
29. CDNT Franchitti/Krumm/Motoyama Highcroft Delta Wing Nissan 3m42.612s
30. P2 Frey/Hirschi/Meichtry Race Performance ORECA-Judd 3m43.619s
31. P2 Holzer/Schultis/Moro Kodewa Lola-Lotus 3m45.664s
32. P2 Giroix/Johansson/Badey Gulf Lola-Nissan 3m47.244s
33. P2 Haezebrouck/Thirion/Rosier Extreme Limite Norma-Judd 3m48.025s
34. GTE P Makowiecki/Melo/Farnbacher Luxury Ferrari 3m55.393s
35. GTE P Fernandez/Mucke/Turner Aston Martin 3m55.870s
36. GTE P Gavin/Milner/Westbrook Corvette 3m55.910s
37. GTE P Bertolini/Beretta/Cioci AF Corse Ferrari 3m56.484s
38. GTE P Taylor/Garcia/Magnussen Corvette 3m57.181s
39. GTE A Neiman/Pilet/Pumpelly Flying Lizard Porsche 3m57.594s
40. GTE P Lieb/Lietz/Henzler Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 3m57.606s
41. GTE P Alfaisal/Curtis/Edwards IMSA Porsche 3m58.035s
42. GTE P Bergmeister/Long/Holzer Flying Lizard Porsche 3m58.717s
43. GTE A Simonsen/Nygaard/Poulsen Aston Martin 3m58.725s
44. GTE A Ehret/Montecalvo/Jeannette Luxury Ferrari 3m58.800s
45. P2 Rostan/Ihara/Deletraz Gulf Lola-Nissan 3m58.895s
46. GTE A Ried/Roda/Ruberti Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 3m59.181s
47. GTE A Bornhauser/Canal/Lamy Larbre Corvette 3m59.192s
48. GTE P Walker/Cocker/Wills JMW Ferrari 3m59.638s
49. GTE P Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander AF Corse Ferrari 4m00.025s
50. GTE A Perazzini/Cadei/Griffin AF Corse Ferrari 4m00.288s
51. GTE A Armindo/Narac/Pons IMSA Porsche 4m00.332s
52. GTE A Kauffman/Aguas/Vickers AF-Waltrip Ferrari 4m00.691s
53. GTE A Krohn/Jonsson/Rugolo Krohn Ferrari 4m02.323s
54. GTE A Rodrigues/Ferte/Illiano JMB Ferrari 4m02.461s
55. GTE A Bourret/Gibon/Belloc Larbre Corvette 4m02.969s
56. GTE A Camathias/Daniels/Palttala JWA Porsche 4m03.661s