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After the first day of practice, all three Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars are at the front of the field.
Frenchman Loïc Duval managed to beat the best time from last year by almost 1.5 seconds.
The diesel-hybrid race cars with the four rings, which have been undefeated in the current season so far, dominated on the 13.629-kilometer track in Western France on Wednesday right from the beginning.
The three diesel-hybrid Audi racecars are followed by the three gasoline-hybrid Toyota racecars.
In free practice and in qualifying, Audi maintained the top three positions. The fastest in both qualifying sessions was the number ‘2’ Audi R18 e-tron quattro driven by Loïc Duval (France), Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Allan McNish (Scotland). The best time of the day of 3m 22.349s was achieved by Loïc Duval shortly after qualifying started at 22:00.
The Spaniard Marc Gené, who is sharing the number ‘3’ Audi R18 e-tron quattro with Lucas di Grassi (Brazil) and Oliver Jarvis (Great Britain), achieved the second-fastest time of the day (3m 24.341s).
Trailing them in third place were last year’s winners and current World Endurance Champions Marcel Fässler (Switzerland), André Lotterer (Germany) and Benoît Tréluyer (France). The fastest lap of car number ‘1’ was driven by André Lotterer in 3m 25.474s.
But Audi said that none of the three squads was mainly focused on the chase for fast lap times on Wednesday. Following the predominantly rainy pre-test on Sunday before last, Audi Sport Team Joest continued the test program that had been started then, focusing on tire tests and a perfect race set-up of the three R18 e-tron quattro cars.
In addition, all drivers tried to do the mandatory laps at night. All, except for Marcel Fässler, who was stopped twice by red flags, managed this.
Unfortunately, both the free practice and the first qualifying sessions were stopped early after incidents in which the guard rails of the race track were damaged – qualifying even ended as early as after 65 minutes of the originally scheduled two hours.
“Still, we basically completed our work tonight as planned,” said Loïc Duval. “Our plan was to reel off a real qualifying lap on a dry track as well – you never know what the weather will be like tomorrow. I caught a lap without traffic. But our car isn’t perfect yet simply because the track conditions aren’t so conclusive yet. At this point in time, the outcome after the final qualifying session on Thursday is still completely open.”
Two further qualifying sessions are scheduled after which the final grid positions will be determined.
To date, Audi has started from the pole position seven times at the Le Mans 24 Hours, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year, and has won the world’s most important endurance race eleven times in 14 runs.
Qualifying 1 results:
1 Duval/Kristensen/McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) 3m 22.349s
2 di Grassi/Gené/Jarvis (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) 3m 24.341s
3 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) 3m 25.474s
4 Wurz/Lapierre/Nakajima (Toyota) 3m 26.676s
5 Prost/Jani/Heidfeld (Lola-Toyota) 3m 30.423s
6 Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin (Toyota) 3m 30.841s