Peugeot continued to dominate proceedings ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours after securing the top four times in first qualifying for the 2010 running of the French classic.
The former F1 racer produced a stunning lap of 3min 19.711secs to take provisional pole at the wheel of the #3 car, putting him more than sixth-tenths of a second clear of Alex Wurz in the #1 car and Stephane Sarrazin in the #2.
Initially it had been the ORECA Peugeot leading the charge thanks to a stellar lap from Nicolas Lapierre, but the Frenchman ground to a halt at Arnage just moments after jumping to the top of the times with a fuel pick-up problem that would sideline the car for the remainder of the session.
Two stoppages for incidents involving GT2 cars allowed Lapierre to remain top for a large part of the session despite his car being parked at the side of the circuit but when the action resumed after the second stoppage, the factory cars all jumped ahead.
Audi meanwhile simply couldn't match the pace of Peugeot during the session, with the quickest R15 Plus in the hands of Mike Rockenfeller, Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard being nearly four seconds off the pace. The two sister cars filled positions six and seven on the provisional grid, but are just shy of five seconds off pole.
Aston Martin Racing secured petrol honours with Stefan Mucke putting the #007 in eighth place – some seven seconds off the pace – ahead of Darren Turner, who slotted into ninth right at the end of the session. The Signature Plus car rounds out the top ten having struggled for pace in the Le Mans Series to date.
The #12 Rebellion Racing Lola was the only car to miss the session as the team examined damage to the front suspension sustained during the earlier practice session.
In LMP2, it was a HPD 1-2, although Strakka Racing had the edge over Highcroft Racing after an impressive showing from Danny Watts.
Watts set the 14th quickest time, ahead of a number of LMP1 cars on a best lap of 3min 36.168secs which was just over a second quicker than David Brabham could manage for the ALMS title winners. Quifel-ASM was third quickest with its Ginetta-Zytek, with the RML Lola-HPD slipping down the times having been third in practice.
In GT1, the Young Driver AMR team established itself as the firm pre-race favourite with a dominant showing in the first session.
Tomas Enge posted a time of 3min 55.025secs to outpace the LMP2 backmarkers and end the session more than two seconds clear of the leading Matech Ford GT – which was repaired by the team after Romain Grosjean crashed in practice earlier on [See separate story HERE
]. The two Luc Alphand Aventures Corvettes rounded out the top four.
GT2 honours went to the Risi Competizione team, despite the #82 Ferrari being sidelined before the end of the session with a transmission issue.
Gianmaria Bruni set the team's best time and was the only GT2 runner to dip below the four minute mark with the #63 Corvette beating the #64 to second place.
Both red flags were caused by incidents involving GT2 cars, the first when the #88 Felbermayr-Proton Porsche crashed into the barriers on the Mulsanne and was left broadside across the circuit and the second after the Ferrari of Matias Russo went off at the Porsche Curves.
The prospect of rain for Thursday's running means the grid may well have been set during the first two hours of running, although a further two sessions will take place tomorrow.