SPORT

Schumacher takes pole

HOCKENHEIM, Germany, july 24. Michael Schumacher moved a step closer to equalling his record of 11 wins in a season on Saturday by taking the pole position for the German Grand Prix, the 61st pole of his career.

Juan Pablo Montoya of Williams, last year's winner here, was second with Jenson Button of BAR, who will be penalised 10 spots on the starting grid, third.

Schumacher's time was 1 minute, 13.306 seconds on the 4.574km Hockenheimring. It was the sixth pole of the season for the Ferrari driver.

He last won the pole at the European Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring in May. Ayrton Senna has the career record with 65 pole positions. Schumacher was just 11th in the pre-qualifying an hour earlier with a time of 1:14.042. As the winner of the previous race he went out first on a dusty track. Montoya did 1:13.668 and Button clocked 1:13.674.

Button had an engine change in his BAR-Honda after it faltered at the end of Friday's practice in hot weather. Under new regulations, he will be penalised 10 spots from his qualifying time.

He had a pole position at the San Marino Grand Prix and is currently third in the driver standings. The Ferrari team can clinch the constructors' title at Hockenheim with a little help from others. It is currently 95 points ahead of the second-placed Renault. If it leads by 108 after Hockenheim it will gain its sixth consecutive team title and 14th overall.

Renault had its drivers, Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli in sixth and seventh respectively. Trulli won the Monaco GP in May and Alonso took the Hungarian GP last August, the only non-Ferrari winners in 11 months.

The temperatures on Saturday morning were more than 15 degrees Celsius cooler than Friday, when they exceeded 40 Celsius. The first practice was halted twice after drivers hit plastic barriers protecting curves, forcing some track repair.

Sunday's race is 67 laps. There is a three-week break before the next race in Hungary on August 15— AP

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