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Webber revels in return of Tasmania Challenge 08 Dec 2011

Mark Webber in preparation for the Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge in Freycinet National Park Race winner Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 27 November 2011 Mark Webber and Guy Andrews on Day One of the 2011 Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge Race winner Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB7 celebrates at the end of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 27 November 2011 Mark Webber on the bike on Day One of the 2011 Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge Race winner Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium with Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 27 November 2011

Just ten days after his season-ending victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix, this week saw Mark Webber swap his Red Bull Racing machine for foot, paddle and pedal power as he joined a 60-strong field of athletes for the start of the Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge.

Webber’s charity multi-sport race, which is back on the calendar after a three-year break, sees two-person teams take on some of Australia’s most rugged scenery over five tough days of racing. Although F1 commitments elsewhere meant Webber was only able to participate in Wednesday’s opening stint, the ultra-competitive Australian was determined to set the pace.

“It was great to end the F1 season on a high with a win in Brazil and that has really set my competitive juices flowing for the Challenge,” said Webber. “It’s such a buzz to have the event back on again - I’ve missed it. It feels great to be back on the course. It's always the same in that you'd like to have had more preparation but it’s great just to be out there.

“We’ve got a very varied field this year, including several international teams, and the event is quickly regaining momentum. It’s amazing to think it started off as just a trek through the bush with a few mates back in 2003 and now it’s raised more than a million dollars for charity through the Mark Webber Foundation.”

This year’s Challenge will cover around 350 kilometres and involves a variety of disciplines including kayaking, mountain biking, trail running and rope work. After some pre-event training with a 6.5-kilometre Adventure Run around Hobart last Sunday, Webber took the opportunity to test some of the Challenge course ahead of the official start.

“I would love to do more of the event,” he added, “but my F1 commitments take priority and I need to be in India and the UK later this week but I will be watching online to see how it’s all going and I am sure (team mate and top adventure racer) Guy (Andrews) and (triathlete) Darren Clark, who will pick up my baton, will keep flying the flag.”

And after one of the longest F1 seasons on record, Webber, who ended the year with third place in the championship, is keen to use the Challenge and the rest of the winter to take some time out to focus his mind on racing again in 2012.

“We live life in a bit of a fishbowl in F1 and it’s great to get back out to nature. What I love about the Challenge is not only the scenery but also the chance to get to know some real characters. Everyone has a similar mind set - it’s competitive, but there’s also a lot of camaraderie involved.

“It’s a great tonic for me to see that, and also to see the funds that everyone raises for the chosen charities. It’s also a good chance to unwind a bit, and it will set me up for what I hope will be a good winter of preparation to fight hard for the F1 championship again when we get back on track again next year.”

After bidding farewell to his Challenge team mates on Thursday morning, Webber headed to New Delhi for Friday evening’s 2011 FIA Gala Prize Giving Ceremony, after which he will fly to the UK for a demonstration run with Red Bull in the team’s hometown of Milton Keynes on Saturday.

For more information on the Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge, visit www.markwebbertasmaniachallenge.com

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