M. Schumacher wins Belgium GP pole

SPA-FRANCOCHAMPS, Belgium, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Five-time world champion Michael Schumacher battled rookie Kimi Raikkonen to win the pole Saturday for Sunday's Formula One Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa.

Schumacher, who made his Formula One debut at Spa in 1991 and recorded his first career win a year later, apparently was unaware he had never captured a pole at the popular 4.3-mile track until Saturday.


"I found out this weekend that I never had pole here before, which I didn't realize," said the German, who averaged 149.657 miles per hour in his Ferrari for his 48th pole.

Schumacher, who covered the longest circuit on the tour in 1 minute, 43.726 seconds, won five times at Spa but was disqualified in 1994 for failure of a techincal inspection of his car.

He always is a favorite at this track and is looking to capture a record sixth win on Sunday. He also will try to become the first driver to win 10 grand prixs in a season.

Raikkonen, a young driver from Finland, was the fastest until Schumacher took the track midway through the one-hour session. The McLaren driver felt he could have gone faster had it not been for traffic on his final run.


"The last run was the quickest, but unfortunately one of the Jaguars went off in front of me," said Raikkonen, who will start from his best position in 13 grand prixs.

Raikkonen had started fifth eight times, sixth three times. He was fourth in France for his top qualifying effort prior to Belgium.

Rubens Barrichello of Brazil will start third in the second Ferrari. Barrichello comes off an impressive victory from the pole in Hungary two weeks ago.

He captured his first of his six career poles at the 1994 Belgium GP while with the Jordan Team when he was just 22. Barrichello has finished in just three of his seven starts at Spa, including fifth last year.

Ralf Schumacher was fourth best in a Williams BMW, followed by teammate Juan Montoya of Colombia. Montoya was slowed down in one of his runs by Raikkonen, who did not see him in time to get out of the way.

David Coulthard, last year's runner-up to Michael Schumacher and the 1999 winner, qualified sixth in a McLaren Mercedes.

Eddie Irvine of Northern Ireland gave Jaguar its best qualifying position of the year in eighth place behind the Renault driven by Italian Jarno Trulli. Jaguar officials said the performance was helped by the new front suspension package.


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