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Sarrazin gives Peugeot pole

Stephane Sarrazin left it late in qualifying to hand Peugeot pole position for the Le Mans 24 Hours for the third consecutive season.

Peugeot had looked like being beaten to the honour by arch rivals Audi thanks to a stunning time at the end of the opening two hours of running from Allan McNish, but it was left to Sarrazin to give the home fans reason to cheer as he stole pole shortly before midnight.

The #8 Peugeot had been the car to beat during the opening part of the session in the hands of Franck Montagny, who produced a series of strong laps despite being blocked at one stage by team-mate Pedro Lamy through the Porsche Curves. However, Audi timed McNish's run to perfection at the end of the session as he jumped to provisional pole by more than a second.

It left Peugeot to chase a time under the cover of darkness and as the session headed towards its conclusion, Sarrazin bettered McNish's time by seven-tenths of a second with a lap of 3min 22.888secs. On the same lap that Sarrazin snared pole, countryman Nicolas Minassian also posted the fastest time for the #7 Peugeot but he was unable to get ahead of McNish and had to settle for third on the grid.

Peugeot's decision to place a car in the hands of Henri Pescarolo's privateer outfit paid dividends as Jean-Christophe Boullion posted the fourth quickest time, while the third of the factory cars will line up fifth on the grid. Marco Werner in the #2 Audi did his best to jump up the order after being sent out for one final flying lap at the end of the session but couldn't get higher than sixth, with the #3 Audi slotting into seventh.

Behind the diesel cars, the #007 AMR Eastern Europe Lola Aston Martin was eighth quickest thanks to Stefan Mucke, but the factory Aston Martin Racing squad faces plenty of work after Jan Charouz put the car into the barriers. As the session drew to a close, the team was awaiting recovery of the car to assess the damage done.

The #008 car will start ninth, while the Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola Aston rounds out the top ten from the Strakka Racing Ginetta Zytek and Pescarolo Judd. Both the Kolles Audis and the two Oreca cars were off the pace and fill positions 13th to 16th, while the #009 Aston, the Team LNT Ginetta and the Creation Autosportif entry were 18th and 19th.

The top 20 was completed by the LMP2 polesitter, with Team Essex Porsche RS Spyder edging out the similar Navi Team Goh car by barely a tenth of a second. The Speedy Racing Lola Coupe was third quickest, albeit some four seconds further back, while RML took fourth in class ahead of Quifel-ASM and Racing Box.

The inter-team Corvette Racing battle in GT1 went the way of the #63 car thanks to Jan Magnussen's quick time, with the #64 in second place. The Jetalliance Racing Aston Martin took third in class from the two Luc Alphand Aventures Corvettes. A troubled week for the JLOC Lamborghini continued with the team well off the pace of its class rivals with the slowest time overall.

In GT2, Flying Lizards took class pole by less than a tenth of a second from Felbermayr-Proton as Porsche locked out the top two places on the GT2 grid, with Risi Competizione leading the Ferrari challenge with the third quickest time.

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