As so often the case in previous years, the final 20 minutes of the third and final qualifying session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans proved to be the most exciting and lap times began to tumble in the late evening hours Thursday. However, Loîc Duval's blistering time of 3:22.349 - set 12 minutes into Wednesday's first qualifying session - was unsurpassed. The No. 2 Audi Sport Team Joest R18 e-tron quattro of Duval, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish will start the 2013 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans from the pole position.
Behind the pole winner will be FIA World Endurance Championship defending champions Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler in the No. 1 Audi R18,which put up a strong challenge in full darkness. Their time of 3:23.696 was an improvement on Wednesday's effort, but not enough to knock their teammates off top spot. Behind the No. 3 Audi is the first of the Toyota Racing TS030 Hybrids, the No. 8 of Sebastein Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Stehpane Sarrazin, who improved their time on Thursday, but are still more than four seconds behind the No. 2 Audi.
It will be the No. 24 OAK Racing Morgan Nissan of Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson which will lead off the 22 entries in LMP2 category, as Pla raced past the No.26 G-Drive Racing ORECA 03 Nissan in the final minutes of the session. Pla's time of 3:38.621 put him ahead of G-Drive's time of 3:39.535 which was set Wednesday.
Level 5 Motorsports will start 18th in the LMP2 class.
In the GTE classes, the Pro and Am pole positions were filled by Aston Martin, with the No.99 AMR Vantage of Frederic Makowiecki taking the top spot in the GTE Pro class with an improvement of one second on Wednesday's best time. The French driver's time of 3:54.635 was 0.8 seconds ahead of his teammate and nearest rival Stefan Mücke, meaning the front row of the GTE Pro grid will be an all Aston Martin affair.
Row two of the grid will be headed by the No. 91 Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR, with an improved time of 3:55.491, just missing out on a front row position by .046 seconds. The No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari failed to improve on Wednesday's time and dropped from second to fourth.
The SRT Vipers could never get untracked during qualifying and will start 10th and 11th in the 12-car GTE Pro Class.
It wasn't much better for Corvette Racing, as the two cars will start eighth and ninth in the GTE Pro class.
In the GTE Am class, it was the No.95 AMR Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Allan Simonsen which posted the fastest class time of 3:57.776, a .9 second improvement on his earlier provisional pole position time. It will be a Porsche joining the Aston Martin on the front row, with the n No. 88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 GT3 RSR recording an improved lap of 3:58.889, nearly one second ahead of the third-placed car, the No.96 Aston Martin. The top Ferrari in the class was placed 4th with Marco Cioci in the No.61 AF Corse Ferrari.
The Dempsey/Del Pierro team will start seventh in the GTE Am class
Tracy Krohn, who was involved in an ugly accident on Wednesday, saw his Krohn Racing team completely rebuild its Ferrari F458 Italia and get back on the track late Thursday evening and complete five laps in the final qualifying session. The team will start from the rear of the field.
With numerous red flags coming out in Thursday's first qualifying session, the start of the late session was moved to 9:30 p.m., giving the teams an extra 30 minutes of track time. The session ended at midnight.
Friday was the traditional rest day and action resumed today, with the pre-race warm-up taking place at 3 a.m. EST and the race will begin at 9 a.m. EST.