Following Audi's opening salvo in the morning session, with 'King of Le Mans' Tom Kristensen heading title rival Bernd Schneider at the top of the timesheets, Mercedes redressed the balance in the DTM's second free practice session in France.

Bruno Spengler - the only other driver aside from Schneider and Kristensen who can still lift the crown - hit back with a time just over two tenths of a second quicker than the Dane, with British Mercedes ace Jamie Green in third and Schneider - who completed more laps than any other driver - a further two tenths in arrears in fourth.

Timo Scheider was the fastest driver in a 2005-spec machine, winding up an impressive fifth in his Audi A4, with team-mates Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Mattias Ekstr?m in close attendance behind. Stefan M?cke and Frank Stippler - also in year-old cars - and ex-Formula One World Champion Mika H?kkinen rounded out the top ten.

Morning star Thed Bj?rk, standing in at short notice for the injured Nicolas Kiesa at Audi customer team Futurecom TME this weekend, was the best-placed driver of a 2004-spec car in 15th place.

The reigning Swedish Touring Car Champion had made a sensational debut in the DTM earlier on, lapping a stunning third quickest behind only the two key title protagonists, and ahead of countryman and fellow Audi ace Ekstr?m.

"It's simply great being back at Le Mans," enthused Kristensen, who has a close affinity with the legendary La Sarthe circuit following his record seven 24-hour wins there. "The track fits the DTM pretty well. Although my lap times today were pretty good, I'm not quite satisfied yet with the long runs."

"It's great competing in a DTM car," added a delighted Bj?rk. "The Audi is really good fun. It's interesting and a great experience.

"I like the circuit and its turns. I'm hoping for a nice weekend, want to show good speed and familiarise myself with the car."

Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich echoed Kristensen's views as he remained circumspect about the day's result, despite four Audi drivers making it into the top ten.

"The comparison of the times between the two tests has to be taken with a pinch of salt," he said. "In-between, the cones were changed, which permitted a different line.

"The field is very mixed, and we still need to analyse our long runs because in the beginning we weren't able to set any good times, while later our performance was decent."

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