Audi lock out grid ahead of Le Mans

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Le Mans 24 Hours favourites Audi lived up to their billing as the team to beat by locking out the top three slots on the grid ahead of this weekend’s 81st running of the celebrated endurance race.

Loic Duval’s time set in the opening qualifying session on Wednesday proved sufficient for pole as the Frenchman impressed ahead of his first Le Mans weekend as team-mate to experienced duo Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen.

Briton McNish, bidding for his third Le Mans triumph this weekend, said: “It has been a hard few weeks in preparation for this race, but an Audi one-two-three in qualifying is the perfect start.

“There is no better place than starting a race from pole. Loic’s lap time on a very dirty circuit was immense.

“We all feel comfortable with our car – we’re in good shape for the 24 hours despite weather conditions playing a big hand over the past two days.”

With a sharp downpour and a slew of red flags interrupting Thursday’s final qualifying session, Duval’s best lap of three minutes 22.349 seconds around the 8.47-mile track was sufficient to seal Audi’s third pole in a row and eighth in total at La Sarthe.

Duval’s time was a full 1.3 seconds clear of the second-placed R18 e-tron quattro of reigning two-time Le Mans winners Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer.