Mark Webber is World Endurance Champ
DID news reach you this week that Mark Webber had become World Endurance Champion for 2015?
Probably not, as mainstream media seems to forget about international motor sport events unless it's the current over-commercialised bore-fest known as Formula 1.
So allow me to enlighten you. At age 39 Mr Aussie Grit has claimed his first career championship of any kind after a rollercoaster ride of a season, piloting his Porsche 919 prototype alongside teammates Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard to overall victory after eight sportscar race events.
Do you care? Well, you should if you've got a passion for real racing, as Mark clearly does. Rather than slink away with his millions into cosy post-F1 retirement at Noosa (Webber has his Aussie base there), he showed his passion by signing with Porsche to tackle endurance racing at its highest level, including the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Webber seemingly couldn't wait to depart the F1 circus by 2013, the nine-time grand prix winner disillusioned by the sad state of the formula, its bitchiness and Red Bull teammate Sebastien Vettel's breaking of team orders regularly going unpunished.
Vettel's brilliance as a driver can't be questioned, something our Mark acknowledged in his recent autobiography, but you could argue Webber was of the old school gentleman driver mould, certainly not short of raw talent, but without the "win at any cost" mentality. Take Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Lewis Hamilton and Vettel - all multiple F1 world champions, but each with a ruthless streak many cannot abide.
Webber led the 2010 Formula 1 championship by 16-points with three races remaining in the season but a crash in the wet at the Korean Grand Prix was the moment the wheels literally came off. It was his first and only genuine shot at the world title which ultimately eluded him, but knowing his talents stretched beyond the confines of Formula 1 and single seaters, signing as a works driver for Porsche in sportscars has proved a shrewd move.
His first year, 2014, returned mixed results. Third in his first World Endurance Championship race at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, this was the first of three podiums that year. In typical spectacular fashion, the Aussie driver also had a horrendous crash at the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo, his Porsche ending up a split-in-two mangled fiery wreck after impacting a concrete wall. He somehow avoided serious injury.
This year has been the breakthrough. A second place at the Le Mans 24 Hours, then four wins in a row made Webber and his teammates odds-on favourites going into last weekend's final round at the 6 Hours of Bahrain.
Engine issues plagued the Porsche team's race, but Webber guided the sick #17 919 across the finish line in fifth place in a drive of impressive resilience: enough to clinch the title. A popular victory for followers of the Aussie, and rightly celebrated with a trademark Webber leap on the podium.
"The pit stops we had in the garage were extremely stressful," Webber said immediately after his win. "It's amazing that we were able to win the World Championship under pressure like this. I am so proud to be World Champion with Timo and Brendon and with Porsche. It was 1986 when Derek Bell managed this the last time. It was a massive day for the team!"
A job well done for a racer long overdue championship success, and just reward for one of the finest motor sport talents to come from our shores.