Tom Kristensen put last year’s winning Audi trio in provisional pole position for a Le Mans 24-Hour Race repeat victory with a stunning opening qualifying performance.
The great Dane, seeking a third victory in the gruelling French marathon, clocked a time of 3mins 32.458sec to outpace the rest of the 48-strong field by more than a second.
Audi, sportscar racing’s dominant manufacturer, not surprisingly filled the top three places in the first of two sessions which will determine the grid for the race on Saturday and Sunday.
Kristensen, whose co-drivers are Frank Biela of Germany and Italy’s Emanuele Pirro, had his team-mate in the American Le Mans Series, Rinaldo Capello, 1.056sec behind him in second.
Third-fastest was the Champion Racing outfit’s privately-entered Audi which boasts England’s Johnny Herbert and Germany’s Ralf Kelleners among its line-up.
Quickest of the other manufacturers was the Dome driven by an all-Dutch crew, the spearhead of which is veteran Jan Lammers, a Formula One competitor in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Although Kristensen was happy with his performance, he knew there was still plenty of work to do before pole position, and more importantly another Le Mans triumph, could be achieved.
‘‘We have a fast car which has been improved slightly from last year,’’ said the man dubbed Denmark’s Driver of the Century.
‘‘But I think some of the other teams such as Bentley will be quicker tomorrow and in the race.
‘‘I still believe the main opposition will come from the other Audis, however. We all know we are capable of winning the race.’’