Audi waited until the final half hour of first practice to show its hand as 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller topped the times with a lap of 3m27.986s.
The four-hour session ended with a flurry as Audi and Peugeot traded fastest times. Andre Lotterer was first to break through Peugeot's dominance with a 3m28.296s and even qualifying king Sebastien Bourdais could not quite match it with a final fresh-tire run in the closing minutes. Then Rockenfeller chipped in to displace his teammate with just a minute and a half to go.
Bourdais was the fastest Peugeot driver on 3m28.536s, third overall and less than a tenth of a second quicker than teammate Alex Wurz in the No. 7 car.
The recent change in ballast regulations had a marked effect as the year-old ORECA-run Peugeot 908 HDi, which has been allowed to run 15kg less ballast, topped the times for much of the session's opening two hours. The car, shared by Olivier Panis, Nicolas Lapierre and Loic Duval, posted a 3m30.096s lap which was not bettered until Simon Pagenaud sliced under the 3m30s barrier in his factory Peugeot 20 minutes shy of the halfway mark. By the end, though, the pace of the factory entries told and the ORECA car finished the session seventh quickest, having not improved on its earlier time.
The session was red-flagged after an hour when Raymond Narac's No. 76 IMSA Performance Porsche 911 crashed heavily in the first section of the Porsche Curves. The car dislodged the end of the tire wall and came to rest on the edge of the gravel trap, bringing on an 18-minute delay.
Lola chassis initially had the advantage among the petrol-powered LMP1 entries. The two Toyota-engined Rebellion coupes were quickest for much of the session, challenged mainly by the No. 15 and No. 16 Pescarolo-Judds. Their next quickest rival, the No. 20 Zytek, was five seconds adrift. At the end of the session, Julien Jousse set a 3m34.271s in the No. 16 works Pescarolo, undercutting the No. 13 Rebellion Lola's best time, set by Jean-Christophe Bouillion, by just over a second.
Aston Martin's brace of AMR-Ones encountered mixed fortunes. Darren Turner reported that adjustments to the No. 007 car he shares with Christian Klien and Stefan Mucke improved its stability, closing the session with a quickest time of 3m46.299s. The No. 009 car covered just 11 laps before pitting for an extended stay in the garage while an oil leak was traced.
In spite of carrying additional ballast, Strakka Racing topped the LMP2 entries with its HPD ARX.01. Danny Watts, Jonny Kane and Nick Leventis set a quickest time of 3m42.863s, edging out the No. 48 ORECA Nissan shared by Alexandre Premat, David Hallyday and Dominick Kraihamer. A brake fire hindered the other pre-race favorite, the Newton/Erdos/Collins RML HPD ARX.01.
BMW set the pace in the GTE Pro class. Jorg Muller was first to break the four-minute barrier with a 3m59.028s in the No. 55 M3 GT he shares with Augusto Farfus and Dirk Werner, followed quickly by Andy Priaulx with a 3m59.763s in the No. 56 car.
There was a minor scare for Corvette Racing when the Gavin/Magnussen/Westbrook car started smoking on its out-lap after the restart. The problem was traced to a dislodged power steering hose and the car went back out to record the third fastest time in the session, 4m00.467s.
The new Lotus Evoras propped up the GTE Pro class, the fastest time of 4m09.576 coming at the hands of Johnny Mowlem. The Jetalliance team is pinning its hopes on an economy run. "We're going to try to squeeze 15 laps out of a tank and get triple stints out of the Michelin tires," said Mowlem. "We've got three consistent drivers so we're hoping for a good result."
The No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari shared by NASCAR racer Michael Waltrip, Robert Kauffman and Rui Aguas suffered a left-rear puncture while Kauffman was at the wheel and limped back to the pits during the stoppage.
Fabien Giroix, Michael Wainwright and Roald Goethe dominated GTE Am in their Gulf AMR Aston Martin, setting a quickest time of 4m04.702s, comfortably quicker than the 4m06.266s posted by Darren Law in the No. 81 Flying Lizard Porsche 911.
Roger Wills had a gyration at the exit of Porsche Curves in the No. 62 CRS Racing Ferrari just before the halfway point of the session and hit the wall, damaging the car.
Pos Cl Drivers Team/Car Time
1. LMP1 Bernhard/Dumas/Rockenfeller Audi R18 TDI 3m27.986s
2. LMP1 Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer Audi R18 TDI 3m28.296s
3. LMP1 Lamy/Bourdais/Pagenaud Peugeot 908 3m28.536s
4. LMP1 Gene/Wurz/Davidson Peugeot 908 3m28.692s
5. LMP1 Capello/Kristensen/McNish Audi R18 TDI 3m28.721s
6. LMP1 Montagny/Sarrazin/Minassian Peugeot 908 3m29.089s
7. LMP1 Lapierre/Duval/Panis ORECA Peugeot 908 Hdi-FAP 3m30.096s
8. LMP1 Collard/Tinseau/Jousse Pescarolo-Judd 3m31.721s
9. LMP1 Belicchi/Boullion/Smith Rebellion Lola-Toyota 3m35.840s
10. LMP1 Monteiro/Moreau/Ragues Oak Pescarolo-Judd 3m36.260s
11. LMP1 Jani/Prost/Bleekemolen Rebellion Lola-Toyota 3m36.319s
12. LMP1 Amaral/Pla/Hughes Quifel-ASM Zytek 3m41.694s
13. LMP1 Hein/Nicolet/Yvon Oak Pescarolo-Judd 3m41.801s
14. LMP1 Ickx/Martin/Leinders Kronos Aston Martin 3m41.962s
15. LMP2 Leventis/Watts/Kane Strakka HPD ARX-01d 3m42.863s
16. LMP2 Premat/Hallyday/Kraihamer Oreca-Nissan 3m43.295s
17. LMP2 Mailleux/Ordonez/Ayari Signatech ORECA-Nissan 3m43.397s
18. LMP2 Nakano/De Crem/Charouz Oak Racing Pescarolo-BMW 3m44.687s
19. LMP2 Ojjeh/Kimber-Smith/Lombard Greaves Zytek-Nissan 3m45.229s
20. LMP2 Perez Companc/Russo/Kaffer Pecom Lola-Judd 3m46.133s
21. LMP1 Mucke/Turner/Klien Aston Martin AMR-One 3m46.299s
22. LMP2 Frey/Meichtry/Rostan Race Performance ORECA-Judd 3m47.723s
23. LMP1 Zacchia/Lammers/Elgaard Hope ORECA 3m48.577s
24. LMP1 Primat/Fernandez/Meyrick Aston Martin AMR-One 3m49.094s
25. LMP2 Erdos/Newton/Collins RML HPD ARX-01d 3m49.347s
26. LMP2 Barlesi/Da Rocha/Lafargue Oak Pescarolo-Judd 3m52.363s
27. GTE P Farfus/Muller/Werner BMW M3 3m59.028s
28. GTE P Priaulx/Muller/Hand BMW M3 3m59.414s
29. GTE P Gavin/Magnussen/Westbrook Corvette C6 ZR1 4m00.467s
30. GTE P Goossens/Holzer/Van Lagen Prospeed Porsche 4m00.654s
31. GTE P Beretta/Milner/Garcia Corvette C6 ZR1 4m00.763s
32. GTE P Lieb/Lietz/Henzler Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 4m01.056s
33. GTE P Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander AF Corse Ferrari 4m01.558s
34. GTE P Farnbacher/Simonsen/Keen Farnbacher Ferrari 4m01.751s
35. GTE P Ortelli/Makowiecki/Melo Luxury Racing Ferrari 4m02.283s
36. GTE P Bergmeister/Long/Luhr Flying Lizard 4m02.875s
37. GTE P Dolan/Hancock/Buncombe Jota Aston Martin 4m03.075s
38. GTE P Bell/Sugden/Maasen JMW Ferrari 4m03.090s
39. GTE P Al Faisal/Tandy/Miller Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 4m03.393s
40. GTE P Kauffman/Waltrip/Aguas AF Corse Ferrari 4m04.047s
41. GTE A Giroix/Goethe/Wainwright Gulf Aston Martin 4m04.702s
42. GTE P Beltoise/Jakubowski/Thiret Luxury Racing Ferrari 4m05.829s
43. LMP2 Rosier/Haezbrouck/Fournoux Extreme Limite Norma-Judd 4m06.234s
44. GTE A Niemen/Law/Pumpelly Flying Lizard Porsche 4m06.266s
45. GTE A Krohn/Jonsson/Rugulo Krohn Ferrari 4m06.328s
46. GTE A Bornhauser/Canal/Gardel Larbre Porsche 4m06.886s
47. GTE A Bourret/Gibon/Belloc Larbre Porsche 4m06.897s
48. GTE P Pilet/Narac/Armindo IMSA Performance Porsche 4m08.179s
49. GTE A Felbermayr/Felbermayr/Ried Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 4m08.728s
50. GTE A Perazzini/Cioci/Breslin AF Corse Ferrari 4m08.910s
51. GTE P Hirschi/Rossiter/Mowlem Jetalliance Lotus Evora 4m09.404s
52. GTE A Robertson/Robertson/Murry Robertson Ford-Doran 4m13.085s
53. GTE A Ehret/Lynn/Wills CRS Ferrari 4m13.752s
54. GTE A Rodrigues/Menahem/Marrioc JMB ORECA 4m13.986s
55. GTE P Rich/Slingerland/Hartshorne Jetalliance Lotus Evora 4m17.334s
56. LMP2 Tucker/Bouchut/Barbosa Level 5 Lola-Honda no time