Audi sweeps Le Mans qualifying; Porsche dominates GT classes

LE MANS, France -- Audi continued its March through the World Endurance Championship Series with an impressive effort in qualifying at the historic Circuit du la Sarthe, garnering the top three times with its R18 e-tron quattro. So far the Ingolstadt-based team has dominated the series as their main competition, the Toyota TS030 Hybride, has been off the pace. However, the wildcard in this year's event seems to be the weather with mother nature dealing a wildcard to the teams for the 90th anniversary running of the event, splashing the track with rain showers on a schedule that has kept team managers guessing on tire set-up. Leading the Audi charge was the No. 2 car of Allan McNish, Tom Kristiansen, and Loic Duvall. It was Duvall, the new comer to the team, who found a clear track later in the first session to drop low time on the field that was not to be beaten. His time 3:22.349 was faster than last year's time. The No. 1 Audi, the two-time defending champion, sat in third on the qualifying ladder until late on Thursday evening's final qualifying session. That's when Benoit Treluyer got a shot a clean track after a yellow flag bunch the cars together. Treluyer and McNish in the No. 2 Audi jumped on the gas when the track went green and when Treluyer got by his teammate he had an open track to work his magic. He turned in a 3:23.696 lap that moved the team from third on the grid to second and within sniffing distance of the pole position team. The No. 1 car's best time to that point had been about four seconds off the pace set by Duvall. Meanwhile the Toyota Team was only able to earn a fourth place with the No. 8 Toyota finding a 3.36.654 lap. At the Driver Parade on Friday evening, a highlight of the pre-race activities, one of the Toyota drivers was asked about the race and said that his team would "battle the Audi's as hard as they could". It was not a concession speech -- but it also did not have the ring of optimism. The Toyota Team can take solace and hope from the fact that the Audi Team found itself in a similar position several years ago when Peugeot dominated qualifying and seemed to have a fast car. When the rains during the race, the Audi's drove through the rain and into the winner's circle, much to the chagrin of the Peugeot team. While the Audi's have been the leaders all season, they still have to race the race -- and therein is the challenge of endurance car racing -- it is not always to the swift.  

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