Porsche’s return to the top category of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) was announced by Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche AG Board of Management Member for Research and Development, on Saturday 8 December 2012, on the occasion of the end of season ‘Night of Champions’ celebration. The first rollout of the new LMP1 car was planned for mid-2013 and on 27 June that year it was confirmed that the Aussie driver, Mark Webber, would be contracted to drive the new prototype.
Webber’s move to Porsche had been speculated about in the press for quite some time, but at the time, Fritz Enzinger, Head of LMP1, commented, “I learned to appreciate Mark’s qualities when we were both involved in Formula One. He is one of the best pilots I could imagine for our team. I’m absolutely delighted that we have such an experienced and fast regular driver on board from 2014.” There can be little doubt that Webber’s vast experience helped Porsche to prepare and fine-tune the performance and handling of the new 919 Hybrid.
Every so often, through the mist of unsmiling, emotionless and sometimes characterless faces of some Formula One drivers who meander through their careers with apparent boredom, comes a driver who changes all of that. Mark Webber, was one such driver who showed an optimism that was unfamiliar in other quarters of the Formula One paddock.
Born on 27 August 1976 in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, the slender (now) 41-year old Webber racked up nine wins and 42 podiums during his more than 200 Formula One race career. Before his Formula One days though, Webber worked his way up the hard way through the ranks of Formula Ford, Formula 3, Formula 3000 and as a Formula One test driver. In 1999, he drove for the Mercedes-Benz sports car team in which he endured not one but two horrific airborne incidents at Le Mans.
These crashes, though, didn’t detract from Webber’s love of racing and at the turn of the millennium he embarked on a Formula One career that would thrust him firmly into the public eye as a lovable celebrity and a world-class racing driver. His career in Formula One ran until the end of 2013.
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