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WORLD SPORT

Schumacher pole equals Senna mark

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Schumacher celebrates his first pole position since Hungary in 2004

MANAMA, Bahrain -- Ferrari's Michael Schumacher seized pole for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and added another Formula One record to his collection in the process.

Schumacher's accomplished lap was the perfect start for the once-dominant team after a dismal 2005, allowing the 37-year-old to equal Brazilian Ayrton Senna's record of 65 pole positions.

It was his first pole since Hungary last year and Ferrari's first front row sweep since Hungary in 2004.

Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa, in his first race for Ferrari, will line up alongside the seven times world champion on Sunday for his first front row start.

"It's an amazing result. To be honest I was not expecting to be on pole," said Schumacher, who will be chasing an unprecedented 85th win on Sunday.

"I thought we might be in touch with the leaders but not in front of everybody so it really is a wonderful surprise.

"What happened in 2005 really hurt and it forced us to react. We have worked very hard for this," he added.

With the knockout qualifying format making an entertaining debut at the windy desert circuit, Britain's Jenson Button (Honda) and Spanish world champion Fernando Alonso (Renault) filled the second row.

"A pretty disappointing result for me really," said Alonso. "I made a mistake on my first timed lap at the end of the session and that meant I had to do another one.

"Obviously the tyres weren't in such a good condition by then, which meant I ended up only fourth. Still, the second row is not too bad."

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya was fifth for McLaren, ahead of Brazilian Rubens Barrichello in the second Honda after drivers fought through two knockout sessions before a final 20-minute scramble for pole.

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, last year's runner-up, was the big casualty after he failed to complete a timed lap due to a suspected suspension failure.

The Finn brought out the red flags in the first of the three sessions after bouncing off the track at speed. The McLaren's rear wing had sheared off, leaving the rear right wheel trailing at an angle.

Raikkonen nursed his car back to the pits while the session was suspended, but there was not enough time for repairs.

"It is very disappointing to not even complete one timed lap as I believe that the team had a good strategy for the new qualifying system and I could have been amongst the quickest," said Raikkonen.

"Although it is far from ideal to start from the back of the grid, there are overtaking opportunities at this track and I have done this before and still achieved good results," he added.

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