Peugeot held on to pole position for the Le Mans 24 Hours after intermittent rain reduced final qualifying to a practice session. Showers during the day meant that no competitive running was able to take place, so teams used the opportunity to practice running in the wet in preparation for potentially more of the same during the race.
The rain handed the pole to the #8 Team Peugeot Total 908, which set the fastest time in the first session yesterday after a dramatic battle with the #2 Audi Sport North America R10 TDI of Allan McNish in the closing minutes of the session.
McNish conceded that he knew that the pole had already been lost in the first qualifying session. "The forecast today was very bad, so it was part of the disappointment on the slowing down lap last night and I knew it was kind of over."
The session was not without incident for Peugeot as Marc Gene stopped the #7 Team Peugeot Total 908 at Arnage and was forced to retire from the session. The #1 Audi of Pirro also had a late moment going airborne at the final chicane after running wide.
Initially most cars remained in the pits as a heavy shower early on soaked the track. The #93 Team Autorlando Sport Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Allan Simonsen, #16 Pescarolo Sport Judd 01 of Emmanuel Collard and #7 Team Peugeot of Jacques Villeneuve were the only cars touring around the circuit.
After half an hour the rain started to ease and cars gradually started to venture out onto the circuit. The #15 Charouz Racing System Lola-Judd B07-17 of Jan Charouz put in a very strong run to lap several seconds quicker than anyone else, and most of the runners were in the LMGT1 and LMGT2 categories.
A flurry of activity followed as Villeneuve, the #8 Peugeot of Pedro Lamy, the #1 Audi of Frank Biela, and the #2 Audi of Rinaldo Capello exchanged fastest laps. Villeneuve continued on track for a very long stint in order to get familiar with the conditions.
The times remained static until the end of the first half of the session when the #8 Peugeot of Sebastien Bourdais set a 4m 06.605s, followed by a 4m 05.008s by the #1 Audi of Marco Werner, and a 4m 05.479 by the #2 Audi of Alan McNish.
The battle continued soon after the break with Werner doing a 4m 04.774s lap and consistently setting the fastest time in the first sector. The rain started to fall heavily but Bourdais sneaked in a 4m 03.098s lap in the Peugeot to go fastest, and then topped this soon afterwards with a 4m 01.928s lap, which remained quickest until McNish put in a 4m 01.257s lap in the closing ten minutes.
The #13 Courage Competition AER LC70 of Stefan Johansson suddenly spun off the circuit at Descente Chapelle at high speed, just after the Dunlop Bridge, in the final hour of the session but was eventually able to rejoin.
The #19 Team Chamberlain - Synergy Lola-AER B0610 driven by Bob Berridge, Gareth Evans and Peter Owen did not run at all during the first part of the session in order to preserve the car for the race and avoid any damage or incidents, but did a lap with Berridge at the wheel later in the session.
The LMP2 category was dominated by the Team Barazi Epsilon Zytek 07S/2s with the #33 car of Haruki Kurosawa, Adrian Fernandez and Robbie Kerr remaining slightly ahead of the #32 car of Juan Barazi, Michael Vergers and Karim Ojjeh.
The #44 Kruse Motorsport Pescarolo-Judd 01 of Tony Burgess, Norbert Siedler and Jean de Pourtales remained the garage for the first half of the session as the team repaired damage from the previous day's accident, changed the engine and got the car in race trim before going out for a few shakedown laps in the second part.
Aston Martin had a strong session with the #007 Team Aston Martin Racing DBR9 driven of Johnny Herbert, Tomas Enge and Peter Kox setting the fastest time in the LMGT1 class. The first half of the session was headed by the#100 Aston Martin driven by Fabio Babini, Jamie Davies and Matteo Malucelli and the team held on to finish with the second quickest time.
Several teams ended the session early in order to save their cars for the race. The #63 and #64 Team Corvette Racing C6-Rs, and the #87 Team Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari F430 GTC of Andrew Kirkaldy, Tim Mullen and Chris Niarchos, all stopped for the evening over ninety minutes before the end of the session.
The #73 Team Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette C5-R driven Jean-Luc Blanchemain went off at Arnage, in a similar same way as Gene a few minutes beforehand, and retired from the session with notable damage to the front of the car.
The LMGT2 category was headed by #93 Team Autorlando Sport Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by Pierre Ehret, Lars Erik Nielsen and Allan Simonsen who set the fastest lap midway through the session and pushed down the #76 Imsa Performancec Matmut Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Raymond Narac, Richard Lietz and Patrick Long.
Most of the teams focussed just on wet-weather testing and pit-stop practice without risking the car, including the #64 Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Max Papis, the #81 Team LNT Panoz Esperante GTLM of Tom Kimber-Smith, Tom Milner and Danny Watts, and the #5 Swiss Spirit Lola-Audi B07-10 driven by Marcel Fassler, Jean-Denis Deletraz and Iradj Alexander-David who all expressed their intention to just run carefully in the difficult conditions.
The #80 Flying Lizard Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by Johannes van Overbeek, Seth Neiman and Jorg Bergmeister remained in the garage for nearly the whole session and completed one flying lap right at the end of the evening.
The session was red flagged five minutes before the end after the #70 Team PSI Experience Corvette C6-R of David Smet spun off the circuit and damaged the left-front of the car.
Due to the wet conditions no cars improved on their times from the first session and so the provisional positions are carried over onto the grid, leaving the #8 Team Peugeot Total 908 on pole position in the LMP1 category, the #33 Team Barazi Epsilon Zytek 07S/2 at the head of the LMP2 category, the #008 AMR Larbre Competition Aston Martin DBR9 in front of the LMGT1 category, and the #87 Team Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari F430 GTC on the LMGT2 pole.
The Le Mans 24 Hours race starts on Saturday at 3pm local time (1pm GMT).