Mark Webber says he must quickly get used to long stints of driving again if he is to be a success racing sports cars for Porsche.
The Aston Clinton Aussie, who appeared on BBC’s Question of Sport on Wednesday night (a repeat is being shown tomight), left Formula 1 at the end of last season and knows he is in for a whole new challenge with Porsche when the World Endurance Championship season starts in April.
But he is not letting the impending transition back to a sport he left in 1999 weigh him down ... quite literally.
“This is my first season for probably five or six years when I haven’t needed to be on weight by February!” he said on his official website.
“Even though we will be doing some pre-season testing with Porsche, the preparation for F1 was different; I had to be on weight right from the start of pre-season testing and my weight control had to be extremely disciplined.
“But, don’t think for one moment I’m going to be overweight in sports cars! I’ll be back at my F1 weight for the start of the championship in April but the WEC season is much shorter with only eight races, so I don’t need to be in that tight weight window for as long as I was in F1. My training regime has changed a bit too. You do quite a lot of specific training for F1; for example, neck training to deal with the high G-forces whereas in sports cars because the lap times are a bit slower, I won’t quite have the load on the body that I used to.
“Of course, there are lots of things from my training in F1 which are completely adaptable in sports cars ... there are a lot of things I learnt in F1 which I will carry across.”
The main difference between the two motor racing disciplines is the length of race. WEC races will last considerably longer and Webber is focused on getting his seating position right to get the best results for him and his new team.
“In terms of the endurance I think that it will be more mentally than physically demanding.
“Concentration levels will be paramount, obviously in terms of passing backmarkers and things like that.”
Webber took to his new car for the first time recently but despite driving the fastest cars on the planet for a living in F1, says he was ‘pleasantly surprised’.
“I went in there keeping my expectations low in terms of what the car might feel like. It’s a lot heavier than an F1 car and very light on downforce so I thought perhaps the car wouldn’t respond that well compared to what I’ve been used to. So I was really surprised, I knew within five or six laps that I was enjoying what I was doing which was great.
“I had Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish in my ears because they’ve been telling me for quite a few years that if I was thinking of making the shift to sports cars, they were still very nice cars to drive.
“I believed them but it’s not until you actually do it yourself that you find out just how nice they are. I hadn’t driven one since 1999.”
The racer also got to test out the Porsche in Portugal and says the experience left him ‘buzzing’.
“I hadn’t been before (to the Portuguese test track), and it was a beautiful circuit to drive the car for the first time. It was very responsive and predictable,” he said.
“It was the first test and obviously there is still work to do, you never stop learning but it was a nice start and I left there buzzing which was great.”