CLICK HERE for full 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours free practice results
Toyota has laid further claim to its status as favourite for the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours in a dramatic practice session that saw arguably its strongest rival suffer a horrific, potentially event-ending accident.
Leading from the very start, Toyota was top of the leaderboard for all but a few minutes of the four hour session, with the No.8 machine of Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sebastien Buemi emerging fastest courtesy of a 3m 23.652secs lap set by the British driver.
However, the story of the session was the mammoth accident suffered by last year's winner Loic Duval
, the Frenchman losing control of his Audi R18 e-tron through the perilously fast Porsche Curves. Though it isn't clear what caused the crash, the car was left with significant damage, suggesting a significant strike against the wall, with many fearing a serious situation for Duval on first sight.
Positively, it was soon communicated that Duval was 'alert' and his condition is 'encouraging', though it is yet to be confirmed what his exact injuries are. In the meantime, the huge damage to the Audi suggests the end of the road for last year's race winning car, which was to be contested by Tom Kristensen and Lucas di Grassi too.
With a pair of red flag periods in the final half-hour punctuating any chance for Toyota's rivals to mount much of a challenge, Marcel Fassler gave Audi something to smile about by rising to second place in the final hour, splitting the two TS040 Hybrid machines.
The ill-fated Audi of Duval, Kristensen and di Grassi was still fourth fastest – having been quickest overall a few minutes before the crash -, while the third R18 of Filip Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi and Oliver Jarvis completed the top five.
Seemingly focused on race pace, Porsche was somewhat off the pace in this session, the two 919 Hybrids three seconds down on the top Toyota in sixth and seventh.
In the LMP2 class, the new Ligier JS Nissan of OAK Racing set the pace in the hands of Alex Brundle, Jann Mardenborough and Mark Shulzhitskiy, ahead of the Murphy Oreca, the SMP Oreca – despite a spin – and the Signatech Alpine.
In the GT classes, Aston Martin's pre-race weight break has served it well with the GT Am car driven Kristian Poulsen setting the fastest time of both categories, ahead of the AF Corse Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella, while the GT Pro Aston Martin of Bruno Senna, Stefan Mucke and Darren Turner was next up.
Those to suffer issues in the session included the Greaves Zytek, the 8Star Ferrari and the Nissan ZEOD RC, which stopped on its first lap and failed to set a time. There was also a crash for the IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche of Erik Maris.
The first of three qualifying sessions for this weekend's race kicks off at 9pm GMT