Mark Webber, a true legend of motorsport, has announced his retirement from professional racing.
The Australian will step down at the end of the 2016 World Endurance Championship in which he is racing for leading team Porsche. That means his last race will be the 6 Hours of Bahrain on November 19.
Webber, 40, started racing as far back as 1991, initially in karting and then in entry-level Formula events, all the time without a sponsor at his back. In 1997 he was invited to join Mercedes-Benz with its sports car racing program. It was with the German automaker in 1999, during the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Webber’s car famously launched into a backflip in the qualifying session and again in the warm-up.
His career seemed to have run out of steam at this point, but the page turned not long after with a successful Formula One test drive for Benetton, which secured him a test and reserve driver position in 2001. His debut wouldn’t be until the following year, with Minardi, and saw him finish a respectable fifth. His first of nine wins in F1 wouldn’t come until 2009, with Red Bull Racing.
Porsche celebrates Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles in the 2015 World Endurance Championship
But Webber eventually fell out of love with F1 and decided to try again with sports car racing. He left F1 in 2013 and signed up with Porsche the following year for the German automaker’s return to top-level endurance racing, in the premier LMP1 Hybrid class of the World Endurance Championship. By the end of the 2015 season, Webber and teammates Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley were named the champions. In the current 2016 season, Webber, along with Bernhard and Hartley, is fourth.
Webber isn’t leaving Porsche just yet. He’s already a brand ambassador for the sports car marque and after 2016 he will stay on as a consultant. It’s not so surprising given his affinity for the brand. As a teenager he drove an early 911, borrowed from a friend, and when he could finally buy his first Porsche he went straight for a 911 Turbo. Today the collection includes a 918 Spyder, a 911 R, a GT3 RS (991), a 911 GT2 RS (997), a 911 GT3 RS 4.0, a 1954 356 Cabriolet and a 1974 2.7 Carrera.
“I will miss the sheer speed, downforce and competition, but I want to leave on a high and I’m very much looking forward to my new tasks,” Webber said in a statement.
He will be missed.