(MotorSport)

Mark Webber at Knockhill, Fife, Scotland during the 1996 British Formula Ford Championship- works ‘Duckhams’ Van Diemen RF96.

It was a good season, he won four races, was second in the title race won by Kristian Kolby in another RF96 and won the important Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch at the seasons end. This victory secured a test with Alan Docking Racing’s top-notch F3 outfit.

This shot made me think about Webber’s progress from the more junior ranks, this short, mainly photographic piece tracks his ascent from the early nineties to 2002.

Before arriving in England he cut his racing teeth in Karts before contesting the Australian Formula Ford Championship in 1994 and 1995 (fourth) before racing in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands- his fourth place secured the Duckhams Van Diemen seat for 1996.

In Formula 3 with Alan Docking Racing in 1997 he was fourth in the British Championship, taking a win at Brands Hatch and three podiums, the title winner was Jonny Kane in a Dallara F397 Honda. In addition Webber was fourth in the important Macau GP and third in the F3 Masters at Zandvoort won by Tom Coronel- the top 37 cars on the grid were separated by less than one second, to provide an example of the competitiveness of F3!

It was a tough year though, only Australian rugby international David Campese’s loan of $100,000 kept Webber afloat and in the Dallara F397 Honda for the full season.

Lola B99/50 Zytec F3000 at Imola in April 2000, third place the first time he raced in the class (MotorSport)

 

‘Fuck me! Again!’, or thoughts along those lines. The second of Mark’s flips on the Hunaudieres at Le Mans in 1999, Mercedes CLR. Peter Dumbreck also took to the sky during the race

In 1998 he progressed to the FIA GT Championship with Mercedes Benz-AMG, how thrilled we all were to see him demonstrate the 6 litre V12 CLK GTR at Albert Park before the season in Europe began.

Paired with Bernd Schneider, they won five of the ten races but finished second overall to  teammates Klaus Ludwig and Ricardo Zonta who also won five but had better placings.

Webber’s aerobatics at Le Mans in 1999, in two sessions remember, showed just how tough he was but the season was a write-off when Mercedes cancelled their program after Webber and teammate Peter Dumbreck both took flight.

In 2000 and 2001 Webber mixed F1 testing roles with Arrows and then Benetton and the European F3000 Championship, finishing third (one win and three fastest laps) and second (three wins) respectively.

In 2002 he broke through into F1 with a Minardi PS02 Asiatech 3 litre V10 (née Peugeot F1), by then the Italian F1 stalwart was owned by Aussie aviation entrepreneur Paul Stoddart.

Webber’s fifth place at Albert Park was a great start to the season and indicative of the career towards the top of the pyramid to come- 9 wins, 42 podiums, 13 poles and 19 fastest laps throughout a stellar Grand Prix career.

Webber, Minardi PS02 Asiatech, Albert Park 2002 (MotorSport)

Etcetera…

(unattributed)

Mark started his karting career at Fairbairn Kart track in Canberra aged 14, winning his first title, the NSW karting championship in 1993.

He is shown above in that machine, what chassis and engine is it folks?

With Mum and Dad- Queanbeyan, early years (M Webber Collection)

 

(unattributed)

Mark ran a well funded Formula Ford campaign in 1995 aboard a Van Diemen RF95 after an exploratory year aboard Craig Lowndes 1993 championship winning RF93 in 1994.

This was the start of the business relationship with Ann Neale, who organised the Yellow Pages deal, helped him make it all the way to F1 and remains his partner in life.

He was fourth in the Australian FF Championship won by Jason Bright in another RF95, in a season of typical depth the class of ‘95 included later V8 Supercar greats Jason Bargwanna and Todd Kelly.

Above the Van Diemen RF95 is on the way to winning the Australian GP, Formula Ford support race at Adelaide in November 1995.

(unattributed)

In some useful ‘big car’, wings and slicks, experience Mark raced Malcolm Ramsay’s Birrana Engineering Reynard 90D Formula Holden at Mallala in June 1995.

He finished second behind his teammate and multiple Gold Star Champion Paul Stokell in the teams 91D.

Webber did one final meeting before heading to Europe in 1996, he contested the Formula Holden AGP support races at Albert Park in one of Graham Watson’s Ralt Australia Reynards, winning the Sunday race in a 91D.

(MotorSport)

The Bouchut/Heidfeld/Dumbreck AMG-Mercedes CLR leads the Tiemann/Webber/Gounon machine during practice at Le Mans 1999.

(MotorSport)

A before and after shot Le Mans 1999 shot.

The photograph above is of the Webber CLR after the first flip at Indianapolis on Thursday night.

Takeoff speed was about 185mph, the car was rebuilt overnight around a new chassis. All three team cars were fitted with front winglets in an attempts to keep them on terra firma.

On the short Saturday morning warmup, one can imagine the courage required to get back in the car, he again took flight whilst following a teammate closely on the hump on the Mulsanne. The car crewed by MW, Jean Marc Gounon and  Marcel Tiemann was withdrawn from the race.

The other two machines, with further tweaks took the start with Peter Dumbreck taking off on lap 75, about 5 hours in, on the bumpy section towards Indianapolis. This time the car flew off the side of the track amongst the trees- Mercedes, lucky not to lose another driver, but with another PR disaster on their hands in France, withdrew the other car- and from sportscar racing as it later transpired.

(MotorSport)

Martin Brundle in the pole winning Toyota GT-One with Pedro Lamy, Mercedes CLR- behind him his teammate Christophe Bouchut with the BMW V12 LMR alongside him, and the rest, Le Mans start 1999.

Testing duties for Benetton at Estoril in September 2000.

Car is the Benetton B200 Playlife 3 litre V10. ‘Playlife’ engines were rebranded Supertec motors which derived from 1998 Renault RS9 engines built by Mecachrome. Goddit?

Raced by Giancarlo Fisichella and Alexander Wurz, the B200s were also-rans in 2000.

Super Nova Racing F3000 Lola B99/50 Zytec V8 at San Marino in April 2001, the Lola behind is driven by Darren Manning.

Mark had a great weekend, winning from pole and taking fastest lap. He won in Monaco and at Magny Cours as well, finishing second in the title chase behind Justin Wilson, his later teammate at Jaguar.

His run home was poor with collisions in all three final rounds.

(Getty)

The shots above are at Silverstone during the 2002 British GP weekend.

Minardi PS02 Asiatech, Q20 and DNF clutch in the race won by Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari F2002 3 litre V10.

Webber during the Red Bull years, meeting and date unknown (unattributed)

Credits…

MotorSport, Frederic Le Foch, Wikipedia, Getty Images, Mark Webber Collection

Tailpiece…

(unattributed)

After retiring from F1 at the end of 2013, Webber joined Porsche’s endurance racing program.

2014 was a building year, but Mark won the World Endurance Racing Championship along with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley in 2015, the same crew having not won a race the year before.

But not the elusive Le Mans win- here is his Porsche 919 Hybrid during the 2016 race- the same trio raced the car that year as in the two seasons before, they were classified thirteenth, the race won by the sister 919.

Finito…

Comments
  1. Jonny'O says:

    I was a big fan of Webber, his demonstrations of speed on board the problematic Jaguar were impressive.
    In my opinion, Webber took a long time to reach a great team in conditions, Williams was a big mistake, or bad luck, he arrived in the team exactly in decadence, and at Red Bull he participated in the slow development of the team until reaching the top, at this moment I believe, Webber’s career would be in decline, even today I don’t understand how he lost the championship to Vettel in 2010, I was very disappointed, I wanted to see Webber win a championship.

  2. Rob says:

    Mark,

    Just a small point re the Formula 3000 series in which Webber competed in 2000 and 2001. The actual series name was Formula 3000 International Championship, as per http://web.archive.org/web/20010116082700/http://www3.fia.com/regle/reg_spt/F3000spt-a.htm and http://web.archive.org/web/20030820070142/http://www.fia.com/Regle/REG_SPT/F3000-Reglement-Sportif-a.pdf

    Cheers,

    Rob Bartholomaeus

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