Jean-Christophe Boullion lead the field at the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours in his Pescarolo Sport Judd closely followed by Ayari in the sister car. Jim Gainer International Dome Mugen driven by Ryo Michigami made a dive down the inside of Champion Racing of Emanuele Pirro at the first corner to move up to third place at the start of an incident-free opening lap.
The two Pescarolos pulled away at a rate of around four seconds a lap from the chasing pack consisting of the Dome Mugen, Pirro in the Champion Racing Audi R8 and the Audi Playstation Team Oreca of Franck Montagny. Michigami dropped back over the first round of pitstops and the two Audis moved ahead. The Rollcentre Racing Dallara Judd of Joao Barbosa had a really strong opening sting and moved up to fifth place behind the to Audis. The Racing For Holland Judd of Jan Lammers made a very early pit stop and took on a lot of fuel.
There was an intense battle at the front of the GT1 class with the two Aston Martins and the Corvette Racing CR6. Peter Kox in his Aston Martin Racing and Oliver Gavin in the Corvette pitted at the same time but Gavin made the quicker stop and pulled away ahead, leaving Kox to rejoin just ahead of Darren Turner in the sister Aston Martin who had taken a drive-through penalty.
The Kruse Motorsport Courage Judd of Phil Bennett lead the LM P2 class four seconds ahead of the Paul Belmondo Racing Courage of Didier Andre. The GT2 class was headed by Robin Liddell in the Panoz Motor sports Esperante two seconds ahead of the Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3-RSR of Marc Lieb which initially lead the class at the hands of Mike Rockenfeller.
Forty-five cars took the start as four were left in the pitlane with technical problems. The Paul Belmondo Racing Courage Ford of Claud Yves Gosselin would not start for the formation lap and had to be pushed back to the pitlane. The Gerald Welter WR LMP2 of Jean-Bernard Bouvet also started from the pitlane, and the Rollcentre Racing Dallara Nissan remained in the pitlane after the first hour suffering from engine problems.