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Ralf Schumacher Wins 1st Pole Spot

June 30, 2001

MAGNY-COURS, France (AP) _ Ralf Schumacher celebrated his 26th birthday Saturday by winning his first pole position during French Grand Prix qualifying, with older brother Michael in second place.

Ralf was .01 seconds faster than the reigning Formula One world champion, slashing last year’s pole time by more than 2 1/2 seconds.

The brothers will start from the front of the grid for the fourth time this season, but the BMW-Williams driver will be ahead for the first time in Sunday’s race.

Ralf Schumacher has a chance to avenge last weekend’s European GP when Michael swerved to close off his second-placed brother at the start of the race. The Ferrari driver won the race on their home track at Nurburgring, Germany.

Michael Schumacher set the early pace Saturday with a time of 1 minute, 13.574 seconds on the 2.64-mile Nevers Magny-Cours circuit.

But Ralf came out again in his BMW-Williams and clocked 1:12.989 for the fastest lap. That was 2.643 seconds faster than last year’s pole time by his brother.

The 32-year-old Ferrari driver later set a time of 1:12.999, just .01 of a second slower than his sibling.

On Sunday, Michael Schumacher will aim for his fifth win at Magny-Cours and the 50th of his career. That would put him one victory short of equaling Alain Prost’s record. He leads the drivers’ standings with 68 points with eight races to go, including the French GP.

Defending race winner David Coulthard was third at 1:13.186. He starts on the second row with McLaren-Mercedes teammate Mika Hakkinen, who was fourth at 1:13.268.

With such fast times, the lap record for the French GP _ 1:17.070 by winner Nigel Mansell in 1992 _ could fall Sunday.

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