After losing provisional pole to Loic Duval during the second session Andre Lotterer reclaimed pole for the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro team with a lap early in the final qualifying session for the weekend's 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Duval's time in the #3 during the second session, earlier on Thursday had given him the best time by nine-tenths, beating Lotterer's time from Wednesday night's opening qualifying session. Lotterer was one of several drivers to improve their times in the early exchanges of the final session as he became the only driver to lap the 13 mile Le Mans track in less than 3:24 to set a lap time of3:23.787 at an average speed of over 240 km/h. The effort ensured that a hybrid drive car will start on pole position of the first ever time at Le Mans and gave the driving trio of Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer pole for the second consecutive year, Treluyer setting the time last year. The trio also won the race overall.
Duval's time from the session (3:24.078) remained otherwise unsurpassed to secure second place on the grid, but behind the situation was far more fluid. For most of the session Audi looked destined for at least a 1-2-3. The #2 car of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello started the session third, a position that only appeared more secure when Kristensen improved in the early part of the night session to 3:25.433.
However in a late move for pole from rivals Toyota both TS030 Hybrids were dispatched from the pitlane with fresh Michelin tyres – Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson tasked with moving the cars up from sixth and fourth overall respectively.
Nakajima was the first across the line, jumping up a place at the expense of the #4 Audi R18 and four seconds later Davidson too moved up a place, beating Kristensen's time to split the lead trio in claiming third place. Initially Davidson, who drove for Peugeot at Le Mans least year, took the place with a time of 3:24.855, before he shaved a further tenth off that time with his final lap of the session.
Like Lotterer and Kristensen John Martin set his fastest lap of the session early on, moving his ADR–Delta ORECA 03-Nissan onto LMP2 pole, replacing OAK Racing – who had led the class after the day qualifying session – on provisional pole. Previously incredibly close, with twelve teams within three seconds of class pole after the second session, Martin's time created a gulf at the top of the class as the Australian took pole by over four-tenths as much of the class opted not to contest for pole.
As a result LMP2 improvements in the final session were rare, the best placed car behind Martin and ADR-Delta to improve the Status Grand Prix team who took 1.2 seconds off their previous best, though their session ended with a trip into the gravel at the first chicane on the Mulsanne straight. They will start eighth in class.
The #24 OAK Racing and #26 Signatech Nissan entries relied on the second session times to start second and third in class behind the car Martin shares with Tor Graves and Jan Charouz. Thiriet by TDS Racing – another of the ORECA-Nissan combinations in the class – will start fourth in class on the strength of the time that paced the Wednesday session.
Though the LMP classes were decided in the final session the pole times for the LMGTE categories came in the earlier sessions.
Patrick Pilet's time in the LMGTE Am Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche from Wednesday night resisted all challengers to give the American team pole position for the team completed by team boss Seth Neiman and Spencer Pumpelly.
In the Pro ranks Fred Makowiecki repeated his pole winning performance from Spa-Francorchamps after setting the best time for Luxury Racing in the first of the Thursday sessions. Only the #71 AF Corse Ferrari improved upon its best time in the final session, moving up a place to fourth in place to split the two Corvette Racing cars.
The other LMGTE Pro news from the session was the return – or rather rebirth – of the #51 AF Corse entry. After Giancarlo Fisichella crashed the car in Free Practice, cracking the chassis, the team had to build an entirely new car, a feat the accomplished in time for Toni Vilander to take the new car out for eight laps at the end of the final sessions.
The only major incident was a Seiji Ara crash in the Pescarolo Team Dome S102.5. The Japanese driver crashed at the end of the Porsche Curves, causing a ten minute red flag shortly before the mid-point of the final session.