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Villeneuve in pole position at Belgium

August 23, 1997

SPA FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AP) - Jacques Villeneuve broke his own qualifying record by winning the pole position today for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Villeneuve’s Williams-Renault was timed in 1 minute, 49.450 seconds on the 4.329-mile track in the Ardennes woods. He averaged more than 144 mph.

After early morning rain, the sun came out and dried conditions quickly enabling the Canadian to better his own qualifying time of 1:50.574 last year by more than a second.

It was the 10th career pole position for Villeneuve and seventh this season. He goes into Sunday’s 44-lap race with five victories for 1997.

Jean Alesi in a Benetton-Renault was second in 1:49.759.

Michael Schumacher, who has won three of the last five races here and is three points ahead of Villeneuve in the driver’s season standings, finished third in his Ferrari with 1:50.293.

Jordan-Peugeots were fourth and sixth, five hundredths of a second apart. Giancarlo Fisichella of Italy in 1:50.470. Ralf Schumacher, Michael’s younger brother, was sixth, 1:50.520.

The morning practice session was stopped three times.

The most serious was when Mika Hakkinen’s McLaren-Mercedes snapped a control rod that sent his left rear wheel flying off. The car crashed heavily into a wall.

Hakkinen got out of the car and needed medical help on the track. He did not return for the resumption of the session but was back in the afternoon qualifying and came in fifth, 1:50.503.

The Finnish driver was in a serious accident at the end of 1995 in a training session in Australia. He spent several weeks in intensive care after a tracheotomy had to be performed at the track so he could breathe. His skull was fractured and bruised nerves partially paralyzed his face.

Hakkinen recovered in time to race at the Australian Grand Prix in March 1996. The announcement of Hakkinen resigning with McLaren for next year along with David Coulthard was announced the day before at Spa.

Damon Hill was ninth in his Arrows-Yamaha with 1:50.970.

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