Denmark's Tom Kristensen began his bid for a seventh win in the Le Mans 24 Hours when the world's most famous endurance race started on Saturday.
The French Pescarolo team started on pole
The race began at 1500 BST, with Audi driver Kirstensen and team-mates JJ Lehto and German Marco Werner in eighth place on the grid.
Erik Comas, Jean-Christophe Boullion and Emmanuel Collard began on pole.
Sebastien Loeb, Eric Helary and Soheil Ayari were second, with Emanuele Pirro, Frank Biela and Alan McNish in third.
The Dome Mugen, driven by Japanese Ryo Michigami, Seiji Ara and Katsutomo Kaneishi, started from fourth spot, with Audi trio Franck Montagny, Jean-Marc Gounon and Stephane Ortelli in fifth.
Aston Martin took first blood in the battle with Corvette for honours in the GT1 category for modified road cars.
The DB9 of Czech Tomas Enge, Dutchman Peter Cox and Portugal's Pedro Lamy qualified fastest in a time of three minutes 48.576 seconds, beating its sister car by just over a second.
The fastest Corvette - that of Briton Oliver Gavin, Monegasque Olivier Beretta and Dane Jan Magnussen - was nearly four seconds adrift.
Le Mans qualifying times:
1.Emmanuel Collard, Jean-Christophe Boullion, Erik Comas - Pescarolo 3 minutes 34.715 seconds
2. Sebastien Loeb, Eric Helary, Soheil Ayari - Pescarolo 3:35.555
3. Emanuele Pirro, Frank Biela, Alan McNish - Audi 3:37.795
4. Ryo Michigami, Seiji Ara, Katsutomo Kaneishi - Dome Mugen 3:38.095
5. Franck Montagny, Jean-Marc Gounon, Stephane Ortelli - Audi 3:38.281
6. Jonathan Cochet, Shinji Nakano, Bruce Jouanny / Courage 3:38.735
7. Nicolas Minassian, Jamie Campbell-Water, Andy Wallace - DBA 3:38.929
8. Tom Kristensen, JJ Lehto, Marco Werner - Audi 3:38.998
9. Martin Short, Joao Barbosa, Vanina Ickx - Dallara 3:39.643
10. Sam Hignett, John Robert Stack, Haruki Kurosawa - Zytek 3:41.177
13. D Schwager, A Frei, C Vann - Courage Judd 3:42.589
14. RG Verdoen Roe, M Krumm, H Primat - Dallara 3:43.377
15. G Fisken, E Halliday, S Hancock - Lola AER 3:44.752
16. T Erdos, M Newton, W Hughes - Lola MG 3:46.205
19. P Bennett, I Mitchell, T Mullen - Courage Judd 3:49.267
20. D Brabham, S Sarrazin, D Turner - Aston Martin D 3:49.739
21. S Zlobin, B Briere, J Barazi - Courage AER 3:51.844
22. O Gavin, O Beretta, J Magnussen - Corvette C6-R 3:52.426
24. CY Gosselin, K Ojjeh, A Sharpe - Courage C65 Fo 3:35.376
26. R Evans, R Berridge, P Owen - Lola AER 3:55.531
27. R Fellows, J O'Connell, M Papis - COrvette C6-R 3:55.914
31. Y Terada, P Roussel, W Binnie - WR Peugeot 3:59.103
36. B Auberlen, R Liddell, SC Maxwell - Panoz Elan 4:07.027
43. N Kinch, A Kirkaldy, A Reid - Ferrari 360 Mo 4:13.237
45. J Macari, S Ericsson, R Wilson - Ferrari 360 Mo 4:20.873
46. J Hartshorne, R Stanton, P Johnson - TVR Tuscan T40 4:22.310
48. V Hillebrand, F Hahn, G Pickering - Courage C65 Ju 4:31.453