F-1’s Webber To Co-Drive New Porsche LMP1 Car
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Porsche’s return to the LMP1 class at Le Mans and in the World Endurance Championship continues to take shape as the German carmaker announced Thursday that Australian Formula 1 driver Mark Webber will co-drive the new car when it debuts next season.
For the 2014 season, Webber, who will leave his Formula 1 ride with Red Bull to take the job with Porsche, will
compete in the new prototype at the Le Mans 24 Hours and in the WEC.
Co-driving the car with Australia’s Webber will be two long-time Porsche works drivers; Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) as well as the ex-Formula 1 test driver Neel Jani (Switzerland).
Bernhard and Dumas already joined forces in 2010 to bring home overall victory from the Le Mans 24 hour race.
In the years 2007 and 2008, they secured the American Le Mans Series title at the wheel of the RS Spyder LMP2 sports prototype. Jani has contested the LMP1 class since 2010.
Webber has spent the last seven seasons with Red Bull Racing, earning a total of nine wins, 36 podium finishes and 11 poles to date. His final F1 start will come at season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in November.
The 36-year-old Webber has already raced at Le Mans twice. In 1998, he finished runner-up in the FIA GT Championship at the wheel of a sports prototype.
“It’s an honor for me to join Porsche at its return to the top category in Le Mans and in the sports car World Endurance Championship and be part of the team. Porsche has written racing history as a manufacturer and stands for outstanding technology and performance at the highest level,” Webber said. “I’m very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula 1. Porsche will undoubtedly set itself very high goals. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world.”
“I’m very pleased to have secured Mark Webber for our LMP1 project as one of the best and most successful Formula 1 pilots of our time,” said Wolfgang Hatz, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG. “Mark is without doubt one of the world’s best race drivers, he has experience at the Le Mans 24 hour race and on top of that he’s been a Porsche enthusiast for many years.”
“I learned to appreciate Mark’s qualities when we were both involved in Formula 1,” said Fritz Enzinger, Head of LMP1. “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 onboard from 2014.”
Porsche has not fielded a factory-backed prototype since 1996. Porsche holds the record for most wins at Le Mans – 16.
Plans to return to the top tier of sports car racing were made official earlier this month. The new car was rolled out in camouflage livery in Germany recently.
Details about the car have been sparse, but it is very likely to utilize some hybrid technology the company has been running at Le Mans in lower-tier GT classes. In fact, it is the continued rise of green technology on the European sports car scene that is playing a big part in Porsche’s decision to return to the top tier of racing over there.
One thing for sure, news of Porsche’s return has created a buzz among those who follow the sport.
“I think it’s huge for certainly the Porschephiles of the world and people who are so passionate about the brand and sports car racing in general,” Patrick Long, America’s only Porsche factory driver, said during a teleconference prior to this year’s 24-hour race at Le Mans. “It’s been since 1998 that we competed for an overall win here at Le Mans, so this has been long anticipated, and in some people’s minds overdue.”
– Jim Pedley can be reached at email@example.comNo Comment