The three works Peugeot 908s and the factory-supported ORECA entry held the top four positions at the end of the opening practice session ahead of this weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours.
Audi's R15 Plus is a clear improvement over last year's car but it has yet to equal the Peugeots' pace around the Circuit de la Sarthe, with the Tom Kristensen, Dindo Capello, Allan McNish car best of the rest in fifth. After the drama of the opening hour, as the Peugeot drivers outdid one another with a string of ever faster times, the session settled down with the majority of teams content to work through their pre-planned programs.
Loic Duval kicked off the final hour by breaking into the 3m21s bracket, half a second under the previous quickest time. The ORECA Peugeot topped the list for another three laps before Franck Montagny led the factory's response, finally delivering a sizzling 3m20.034s on the last lap of his stint – a second and a half faster than Duval. Montagny subsequently revealed that he had been using the same set of tires over three stints.
With 15 minutes to run, Stephane Sarrazin took over from Montagny, and Sebastien Bourdais got in the No. 3 car in a final battle for the top, but although Bourdais improved his car's time it was not enough to clinch the number one spot. Nicolas Lapierre completed the session in the ORECA Peugeot but did not beat Duval's time. The Wurz/Gene/Davidson car which set the initial pace ended the session in fourth.
The best Audi could manage was 3m23.935s, nearly four seconds off the quickest lap of the day.
Aston Martin's Lola-based coupes finished best of the gasoline-powered cars, behind the factory Audis. The Hancock/Turner/Barazi and Fernandez/Mucke/Primat entries ended the session eighth and ninth.
Greg Mansell took six seconds off the previous fastest time set by the Beechdean Ginetta-Zytek he shares with father Nigel and brother Leo. 3m35.500s was quick enough to lift the car from the bottom of the LMP1 list.
David Brabham was the class of the field in LMP2. Even his own teammates couldn't match his fastest time of 3m38.691s in the Highcroft HPD ARX-01c. Danny Watts and Jonny Kane ran Brabham close in the rival Strakka entry, which finished one position behind in 19th overall, on 3m38.825s, but team-mate Nick Leventis spun and damaged the car slightly on his out-lap after the session was restarted.
Aston Martin remained untouchable in GT1. No other car came close to the 3m56.839s set by the No. 52 DBR9 shared by Peter Kox, Tomas Enge and Cristoffer Nygaard. The No. 72 Luc Alphand Aventures Chevrolet Corvette C6.R was 2.913s behind and the Ford GTs suffered all manner of problems: Rahel Frey spun and damaged the rear of the No. 61 car against the barriers and the de Doncker/Leinders/Palttala entry continued to suffer electrical problems.
Chevrolet topped the closely contested GT2 category. The No. 64 Corvette shared by Emmanuel Collard, Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin led by a good margin on 4m00.888s. The No. 63 Magnussen/O'Connell/Garcia sister car was beaten to second in class by the No. 77 Lieb/Lietz/Henzler Felbermayr Porsche. Just four seconds separated the top 10 in the GT2 class.
Pos Driver Cls Car Time Laps
1. Montagny/Sarrazin/Minassian P1 Peugeot 908 3:20.024 57
2. Lamy/Bourdais/Pagenaud P1 Peugeot 908 3:21.266 44
3. Panis/Lapierre/Duval P1 ORECA Peugeot 908 3:21.514 54
4. Wurz/Davidson/Gene P1 Peugeot 908 3:23.605 45
5. Kristensen/McNish/Capello P1 Audi R15 3:23.935 43
6. Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer P1 Audi R15 3:24.099 45
7. Bernhard/Dumas/Rockenfeller P1 Audi R15 3:24.779 48
8. Turner/Hancock/Barazi P1 Lola-Aston Martin 3:27.268 47
9. Mucke/Fernandez/Primat P1 Lola-Aston Martin 3:28.133 42
10. Belicchi/Boullion/Smith P1 Rebellion Lola 3:29.851 38
11. Bouchut/Tucker/Rodrigues P1 Kolles Audi R10 3:30.295 50
12. Jani/Andretti/Prost P1 Rebellion Lola 3:30.629 36
13. Ayari/Andre/Meyrick P1 ORECA 01-AIM 3:30.761 49
14. Jarvis/Albers/Bakkerud P1 Kolles Audi R10 3:32.853 47
15. Mailleux/Ragues/Ickx P1 Signature Lola-Aston 3:33.067 48
16. Mansell/Mansell/Mansell P1 Beechdean Ginetta 3:34.857 45
17. Pirro/Cocker/Drayson P1 Drayson Lola 3:37.416 29
18. Brabham/Franchitti/Werner P2 Highcroft HPD ARX-01 3:38.691 34
19. Watts/Kane/Leventis P2 Strakka HPD ARX-01 3:38.825 44
20. Erdos/Newton/Wallace P2 RML Lola HPD 3:40.119 38
21. Hughes/Amaral/Pla P2 ASM Ginetta-Zytek 3:42.351 48
22. Moreau/Charouz/Lahaye P2 Oak Pescarolo 3:44.178 39
23. Pirri/Cioci/Perrazzini P2 Racing Box Lola 3:49.938 32
24. Hein/Nicolet/Yvon P2 Oak Pescarolo 3:50.853 45
25. Greaves/Ojjeh/Chalandon P2 Bruichladdich Ginetta 3:51.358 44
26. Noda/Pourtales/Kennard P2 KSM Lola-Judd 3:52.353 25
27. Rostan/Meichtry/Bruneau P2 Race Perf Radical 3:53.773 23
28. Enge/Nygaard/Kox GT1 Young Driver Aston 3:56.839 37
29. Salini/Salini/Gommendy P2 WR/Salini WR Zytek 3:56.918 37
30. Policand/Gregoire/Hart GT1 Alphand Corvette 3:59.752 39
31. Gavin/Beretta/Collard GT2 Corvette 4:00.888 41
32. Leinders/Palttala/de Doncker GT1 Marc VDS Ford GT 4:01.665 35
33. Schell/da Rocha/Zollinger P2 Pegasus Norma-Judd 4:01.809 37
34. Lieb/Lietz/Henzler GT2 Felbermayr Porsche 4:02.101 35
35. O'Connell/Magnussen/Garcia GT2 Corvette 4:02.187 42
36. Grosjean/Mutsch/Hirschi GT1 Matech Ford GT 4:02.546 14
37. Bruni/Melo/Kaffer GT2 Risi Ferrari 4:03.007 42
38. Farnbacher/Simonsen/Keen GT2 Hankook Ferrari 4:03.046 38
39. Gardel/Berville/Canal GT1 Larbre Saleen 4:03.142 21
40. Coronel/Dumbreck/Bleekemolen GT2 Spyker 4:03.336 41
41. Alesi/Fisichella/Vilander GT2 AF Corse Ferrari 4:03.643 39
42. Jousse/Gouselard/Massen GT1 Alphand Corvette 4:03.879 15
43. Westbrook/Scheider/Holzer GT2 BMS Scuderia Porsche 4:04.098 44
44. Salo/Russo/Companc GT2 AF Corse Ferrari 4:04.476 36
45. Pilet/Narac/Long GT2 IMSA Porsche 4:04.849 39
46. Allemann/Gachnang/Frey GT1 Matech Ford GT 4:05.295 18
47. Farfus/J Muller/Alzen GT2 BMW M3 4:05.675 34
48. Priaulx/D Muller/Werner GT2 BMW M3 4:05.876 45
49. Bergmeister/Law/Neiman GT2 Flying Lizard Porsche 4:06.564 34
50. Bell/Sugden/Miller GT2 JMW Aston Martin 4:08.634 28
51. Felbermayr/Felbermayr/Konopka GT2 Felbermayr Porsche 4:10.593 36
52. Krohn/Jonsson/van de Poele GT2 Risi Ferrari 4:10.615 35
53. Yogo/Iiri/Yamanishi GT1 JLOC Lamborghini 4:14.448 29
54. v.Splunteren/Hommerson/MachielGT2 Prospeed Porsche 4:17.011 34
55. Goossens/Dalziel/Gentilozzi GT2 Jaguar XKR 4:17.668 6
56. Lewis/Burgess/Willman P1 Autocon Lola-AER no time 2