With nine wins, more than 40 podium finishes and a straight-talking personality, Mark Webber is something of a legend to F1 fans. But the Australian driver doesn't just have a passion for petrol power.
Among adventurers and the outdoor community, he's also known for his adventure race — the Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge, which just finished its 10th anniversary edition.
In fact, adventure sports have been a constant throughout his 12 years at Formula 1. And although he has well-publicised plans to compete in the World Endurance Championship with Porsche, he tells the Adventure channel that he has big plans for two-wheeled adventures as well.
“I really struggle to go to a gym, it's not very inspiring,” he tells us. “You get the heart rate up and the endorphins going but when you're outside you've got fresh air, the elements. I love trail running, mountain biking and kayaking — that adventure element is appealing to me.”
At one point during his career Webber used to train with an ex-special forces performance coach called Bernie Shrosbree, who's well known among F1 drivers and Olympians for his outdoor cross-training methods — taking athletes kayaking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing. “Bernie's super old school,” says Webber “but that was good for me at that time of my career.”
Webber says he has big plans for his Challenge adventure racet. The three-year partnership with Tasmania has come to a close and although there won't be an event in 2014 he says the event is alive and well.
“We are working on a new concept. Next year will see an important step in the development of the Challenge. Watch this space!”
Initially set up as a charity fundraiser the race has gone from strength to strength. “It attracts a big mix of athletes,” says Webber, “some real tough cookies from weekend warriors who want to test themselves on a tough course to Olympians, world champion adventure racers to tennis and cricket players.”
The adventure race sees teams run, mountain bike and kayak between various checkpoints over hundreds of kilometres of the Tasmanian wilderness. So far, it has raised almost €1 million for charities.
“It's a race you certainly discover a lot about yourself,” says Webber. “You're between six to 10 hours a day in the bush with your mates. Some of those days have been the toughest of my life.”
It's perhaps ironic that Webber's worst injury came not from racing around a track at 350kph but during the 2008 Mark Webber challenge when he broke his leg after colliding with a car while on a mountain bike. “I came across a car in the middle of nowhere. The firetrail was cambered and it was very hard for me to change my line,” he recalls.
There may be no Mark Webber challenge in 2014 but Webber is not sitting back and putting his feet up. “There are a few mountain bike races on the agenda and I'm looking at Leadville,” he says.
The 100 miler is an endurance classic, feared not only for its distance but altitude — it begins at 2,804m (9,200ft) and has a highpoint of 3,790m (12,424ft).
Interestingly, Webber says mountain biking does share some parallels with high speed driving.
“The decision making, looking a long way ahead... when you're on technical mountain bike descents, your concentration has got to be high.”
Whatever Webber's plan for 2014, one thing's for sure, it promises to be an adventure.
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Tarquin Cooper can be found on Twitter @adventuretarq