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Webber leaves F1 for Porsche

36 year old Webber will join Porsche's new LMP1 race program for 2014.

Australian Formula One ace Mark Webber will quit F1 racing at the end of this year and drive for Porsche in the LeMans 24 Hour race and sports car series from next year. A statement from Porsche issued tonight said Webber has signed “a multi-year contract” with the German car maker.

Webber, 36, has already raced at Le Mans twice but his campaign was overshadowed by a dramatic crash that saw his car do a backflip at 270km/h.

Since he began his Formula One career in 2002, Webber has achieved 36 podium places, nine race victories and has started from pole position 11 times.

He finished third in the 2010 and 2011 F1 championships and is current ranked fifth in this year’s F1 championship. His teammate Sebastian Vettel of Germany has won the F1 championship for the past three years and is leading this year’s series.

“It’s an honour for me to join Porsche at its return to the top category in Le Mans and in the sports car World Endurance Championship and be part of the team,” Mark Webber said in a Porsche statement.

“Porsche has written racing history as a manufacturer and stands for outstanding technology and performance at the highest level. I’m very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula 1. Porsche will undoubtedly set itself very high goals. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world.”  Webber is yet to talk in detail about ending his F1 career. 

Originally from Queanbeyan near Canberra, Webber started racing karts at the age of 14. He won the New South Wales state championship in 1993, and moved into the Australian Formula Ford Championship after his father bought him an ex-Craig Lowndes car. Webber finished 14th in his debut season. 

In 1995, Webber scored several victories, including a win in the support race for the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide and finished the season in fourth place. 

He moved to England at the end of that year to race in Formula Fords there. During the 1996 British Formula Ford Championship, Webber took four victories on his way to second place overall.

In 1997 he was approached by Mercedes-Benz to race sports car for the German car maker, and drove for them in the 1998 and 1999 LeMans races and sports car series. 

He got his break into F1 in a two-day test in December 1999 driving for the small Arrows test team. His chance in the F1 championship came via Minardi in 2002 before switching to Jaguar in 2003 and 2004. He raced for Williams F1 in 2005 and 2006 before switching to Red Bull Racing in 2007, where he has been ever since.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling