Porsche on Pole for 24

Porsche yesterday claimed their second consecutive pole position at Le Mans after rain washed out the second and third qualifying sessions.

The #2 919 Hybrid of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb had set a Q1 benchmark of 3:19.733, a time that was impossible to beat on a track that at times last night seemed to feature more puddles than tarmac.

But the wet conditions couldn't dampen the enthusiasm for a race which is showing signs of being a gruelling fight to the finish. The second placed Porsche #1 was less than half a second behind the pole sitter, while Toyota made a return to the sharp end by taking third and fourth on the grid; the #6 only a further half second off the front row.

The #7 and #8 Audis, which took fifth and sixth positions respectively, appeared to be 3s off the pace but are understood to have been more focussed on tyre testing in the first qualifying session.

The 23 car strong LMP2 field will be led off the line by the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca followed by the local favourite #35 and #36 Alpines. The Manor Racing Oreca of Tor Graves, Matt Rao and Roberto Merhi will start fourth in what is already shaping up to be an impressive debut performance from the British team.

Last year's P2 winners KCMG have had a quiet start to their title defence, taking ninth on the class grid and almost three seconds behind the leaders.

Meanwhile the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier, which will be driven tomorrow by Olympic legend S ir Chris Hoy, will start 25th overall and 17th in class.

GTE Pro looks set to revive an age old rivalry with Ford and Ferrari both bringing new cars to the race which are so far streets ahead of their competitors.

The two US Ford GTs took first and second slots ahead of the always-strong #51 AF Corse, with the two UK Fords following closely behind. The fastest non-Ford or Ferrari entry was the #92 Porsche 911 way down in eighth place and four seconds off pole, while the Aston Martins and Corvettes were similarly far off the pace. Le Mans bosses have indicated that even at this late stage there may be an opportunity to make changes to rules governing each car's performance in order to make race day more interesting.

Their Am cousins however are much closer, with the top eight within three seconds of one another. The gentleman driver class is led by the dragon-liveried #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari, followed by the #98 Aston Martin and #55 AF Corse.

But as everybody knows qualifying at Le Mans is only a reflection of single lap ultimate pace - the race will be won by whichever car can best deal with the unique challenge that the 24 Hours provides.

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