Audi secured provisional pole after the opening qualifying session for the Le Mans 24 Hours despite half of the two hours of running being lost following an accident on the Mulsanne straight.
As was the case in free practice earlier in the day, Loic Duval emerged as the fastest man on track at the wheel of the #2 R18 e-tron Quattro and signaled his intentions with a storming first lap that put him under last year's qualifying time.
The Frenchman then improved his time on the next lap to post a lap of 3mins 22.349secs, which would remain unbeaten through to the point that the session was brought to an early end.
That stoppage was caused by an accident for Pierre Thiriet, who went into the barriers at the second Mulsanne chicane in the Thiriet by TDS Oreca-Nissan. With the incident coming at the same place where Eric Lux had crashed his Greaves Motorsport Zytek earlier in the day, extensive repairs were required to the barrier and – despite the best efforts of crews working at the scene – the decision was eventually taken not to restart.
Duval's margin at the head of the pack would be just under a second at the point the session ended, with Marc Gene having gone second fastest in the #3 Audi ahead of Andre Lotterer; more than a second further back in third spot.
With Audi taking a 1-2-3 on the overnight times, Toyota had to settle for fourth spot with the #7 car more than four seconds off the overall pace but there was disappointment for the sister car after Sebastien Buemi ground to a halt on-track with a suspected gearbox related issue.
The end result was that the second factory car would only manage sixth on the times, with the first of the two Rebellion Racing Lolas able to post the fifth best time.
In LMP2, Mike Conway set the time for the G-Drive Racing team with an advantage of more than a second over the Morand Racing Morgan-Judd and the first of the three OAK Racing cars.
Aston Martin Racing topped the two GTE classes, with Fred Makowiecki edging out his rivals to lead the GTE-Pro class and Allan Simonsen fastest in GTE-Am.
In total, 52 cars set a time, with the #41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek and the Ferraris from JMW Motorsport and Krohn Racing all missing out due to the accident damage sustained in their earlier practice accidents.
The Lotus Praga team meanwhile failed to get the #32 car out for the session after its earlier off-track issues.
To view times from first qualifying, CLICK HERE