Webber revels in return of Tasmania Challenge 08 Dec 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.
Webbers charity multi-sport race, which is back on the calendar after a three-year break, sees two-person teams take on some of Australias most rugged scenery over five tough days of racing. Although F1 commitments elsewhere meant Webber was only able to participate in Wednesdays 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. Its such a buzz to have the event back on again - Ive 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 its great just to be out there.
Weve got a very varied field this year, including several international teams, and the event is quickly regaining momentum. Its amazing to think it started off as just a trek through the bush with a few mates back in 2003 and now its raised more than a million dollars for charity through the Mark Webber Foundation.
This years 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 its 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 its 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 - its competitive, but theres also a lot of camaraderie involved.
Its a great tonic for me to see that, and also to see the funds that everyone raises for the chosen charities. Its 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 evenings 2011 FIA Gala Prize Giving Ceremony, after which he will fly to the UK for a demonstration run with Red Bull in the teams hometown of Milton Keynes on Saturday.
For more information on the Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge, visit www.markwebbertasmaniachallenge.com
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