Thiriet by TDS Racing are involved in a tight battle for second in LMP2 (Photo Credit: Rolex/Stephan Cooper)

Thiriet by TDS Racing are involved in a tight battle for second in LMP2 (Photo Credit: Rolex/Stephan Cooper)

By virtue of an eventful pitstop for Benoit Treluyer in the #1 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro Allan McNish lead the 80th 24 Hours of Le Mans with three hours remaining.

McNish and Treluyer swapped the lead during the hour, running on radically different pit schedules. Treluyer led by just two second before making a stop in the first half of the hour, but when McNish replied with his own stop the lead had grown to 12 seconds and continued to grow as Treluyer worked through the remainder of his stint of fuel.

When Treluyer pitted he had an 18 second lead over McNish, but a mistake entering pitlane – spinning across the pit lane speed limit line – could prove costly in terms of losing that margin of error.

However, the closest battle on track was for another class lead – LMGTE Am – with just three tenths of a second dividing the Larbre Corvette and Imsa Performance Porsche in favour of the Corvette squad. The pair look destined to settle the class honours between themselves as the Krohn Racing Ferrari lies third in class, but five laps in arrears.

Elsewhere in LMP1 Strakka Racing's comeback ended in failure. A water pressure issue put the HPD ARX-03 in the garage, the team reportedly deciding to conserve the car in order to finish the race, rather than risk a retirement so close to the end of the race – and World Endurance Championship points.

Starworks Motorsports – with defending LMP2 champion Tom Kimber-Smith driving have a lap lead in the category over a battle for second between the ORECA 03 of Thiriet by TDS Racing and Pecom Racing which ended the hour split by just 22 seconds.

AF Corse's lead in LMGTE Pro is two laps as the Ferrari squad continue their dominance of the class they have had since the darkness hours.

2012 24 Hours of Le Mans class standings after 21 Hours:

LMP1
#2 – Audi Sport Team Joest – Capello/Kristensen/McNish – 333 laps
#1 – Audi Sport Team Joest – Passler/Lotterer/Treluyer – 333 laps
#4 – Audi Sport North America – Bonanomi/Jarvis/Rockenfeller – 330 laps
#3 – Audi Sport Team Joest – Dumas/Duval/Gene – 325 laps
#12 – Rebellion Racing – Prost/Jani/Heidfeld – 323 laps

LMP2
#44 – Starworks Motorsports – Potolicchio/Dalziel/Kimber-Smith – 311 laps
#46 – Thiriet by TDS Racing – Beche/Thiriet/Tinseau – 310 laps
#49 – Pecom Racing – Perez Companc/Ayari/Kaffer – 310 laps
#26 – Signatech Nissan – Panciatici/Ragues/Rusinov – 308 laps
#41 – Greaves Motorsport –  Zugel/Gonzalez/Julian – 306 laps

LMGTE Pro
#51 – AF Corse – Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander – 295 laps
#59 – Luxury Racing – Makowiecki/Melo/Farnbacher – 293 laps
#97 – Aston Martin Racing – Fernandez/Mucke/Turner – 292 laps
#73 – Corvette Racing – Taylor/Garcia/Magnussen – 286 laps
#71 -AF Corse – Bertolini/Beretta/Cioci – 285 laps

LMGTE Am
#50 – Larbre Competition – Bornhauser/Canal/Lamy – 288 laps
#67 – Imsa Performance Matmut – Armindo/Narac/Pons – 288 laps
#57 – Krohn Racing – Krohn/Jonsson/Rugolo – 283 laps
#79 – Flying Lizard Motorsports – Neiman/Pilet/Pumpelly – 274 laps
#70 – Larbre Competition – Belloc/Bourret/Gibon – 271 laps