Stephane Sarrazin produced a fine lap in the final half hour of first qualifying for the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours to put Peugeot on provisional pole for the round the clock classic.

Having seen Audi lead the way for much of the session, Sarrazin set a best time of 3min 27.033secs at the wheel of the #8 Peugeot 908 to knock Andre Lotterer off pole.

With Audi examining a range of different aero packages during the session, Romain Dumas took third despite his session coming to an end at the half-way point when he collided with the Gulf AMR Aston Martin of Roald Goethe, which was stationary on the circuit in front of him having suffered a spin.

The incident caused the session to be redflagged briefly and sidelined both cars for the remainder of Wednesday's running.

Back on track, Tom Kristensen set the fourth quickest time in the third of the factory Audis, with the remaining two factory Peugeots rounding out the top six and the Oreca entered Peugeot 908 HDI the final diesel runner in seventh.

On its return to La Sarthe, the Pescarolo team was quickest of the petrol cars in seventh place, although Emmanuel Collard's best lap was some five seconds down on the slowest of the diesels. It was still comfortably clear of the two Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyotas, which rounded out the top ten.

Another troubled session for Aston Martin saw its new cars down in 26th and 27th places, with Adrian Fernandez stopping briefly on the Mulsanne during the session and Christian Klien damaging the nose on his car and leaving it needing repairs in the garage.

LMP2 pole went to defending champions Strakka Racing although the session ended in the worst possible way when Nick Leventis crashed the HPD ARX-01d heavily at the opening chicane - bringing the session to a close slightly early. The car's quickest time, set by Jonny Kane, was half a second clear than Frank Mailleux was able to manage in the Signatech Nissan Oreca. The similar Oreca-entered car was third with the Greaves Motorsport Zytek in fourth despite Tom Kimber-Smith pitting with front-end damage.

In GTE-Pro, the top eight cars all managed to break the four minute barrier, with the BMW of Joey Hand, Andy Priaulx and Dirk Muller beating the AF Corse Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni to top spot. GTE-Am honours went to the Larbre Competition Porsche, ahead of the similar Flying Lizard Motorsport-entered car.

There were problems for various teams in the first two hours of qualifying, with the IMSA Performance MATMUT Porsche heading off to the team's factory for work after a practice accident and the Robertson Racing Ford GT also failing to set a time due to an engine issue.

Of those cars that did log laps, the Felbermayr-Proton Porsche of Bryce Miller came to a halt on circuit with smoke coming from the rear end, while the Kronos Racing Lola Aston Martin required a driveshaft change that affected its time on track. A transmission issue affected JMB's GTE-Am Ferrari while the Hankook Team Farnbacher and Extreme Limite AIM Paris cars also suffered spins in the final part of the lap but escaped unscathed.

Four hours of qualifying, split into two two-hour sessions, will decide the final grid on Thursday.

To see qualifying times from Wednesday evening, CLICK HERE.


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