Mark Webber on his Porsche obsession: Porsche turns 70

The quiet obsessive

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Porsche’s 70th birthday sees the marque in ruder health than ever before. Wheels celebrates the company’s seven decades of engineering excellence forged on road and track.

I wasn’t much of a supercar guy when I was young. I didn’t lust after them; I was more into racing and dirt bikes, but I did have one poster on my bedroom wall – a silver Porsche 959, which might have had a female next to it as well.

Porsches really started to interest me in my late teenage years, but I didn’t own one until 2009 when I bought my 997 Turbo S. It’s been my daily ever since, which is nice in Europe because you can actually drive cars pretty hard here. I own a few Porsches now, mainly 911s, and I’m very precious about them. I don’t track them and I don’t even like to drive them in the rain!

They’re subtle; that’s what I love about Porsches. Some say they’re cold, a bit generic, a bit tough, but they’ve got this timeless styling and the performance way exceeds how understated they are. Racing them is a real honour. There aren’t many teams you can drive for that have the owner’s name above the garage door and there’s this history that comes through. The cars are built to go racing and that means no weakness, building racing parts and over-speccing things to last 35 hours that also make their way into road production.

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It’s very different driving for Porsche to what I experienced in Formula 1. It was like a big family; the drivers all got on and the team liked to remind us of all the Porsche legends that came before us, like Ickx, Bell and Stuck. It was a big responsibility, though, and we had to win. Porsche doesn’t finish second very well.

Operationally, Porsche is the best in the world, no question. They are meticulous and ultimately we won a lot of races through operational procedures, even beating other German teams like Audi. Sometimes we just didn’t have the outright speed but we wore the opposition down through the pit-stops and through lots of things that frankly, they just weren’t as prepared for.

My favourite Porsche racer is the 917. It’s Porsche’s first Le Mans winner and I’ve been lucky enough to drive one. It was very raw and not the biggest car, and the last words from the engineer before I took off were “Mark, your legs are part of the crash structure”, so that was interesting. I own a 918 Spyder, and even painted it in unique colours like the Salzburg 917, and I’ve raced the 919 as well, so those three cars are very special.

I enjoy developing Porsche’s new GT cars, as well as Mission E, and I’m not only helping with things like damping and ESC tunes, but making sure we have no compromises. No other sportscar has as wide an envelope as a Porsche and you can’t just underestimate that. It comes from 70 years of trial and error. That’s what makes them pretty spectacular. 

Garage evolution

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Webber’s personal collection of Porsches is extensive, spanning from a 1954 356 cabriolet to a 918 Spyder (shown above) painted in Salzburg livery to match the 1970 Le Mans-winning 917. The remainder are 911s, including: 997 GT3 RS 4.0, 997 GT2, 997 Turbo S, 991 GT3 RS, 911 R, 991 Turbo S Exclusive, 991.2 GT2 RS, and one other he asked to keep secret. Unlike Rohrl’s collection, Webber’s Porsches aren’t housed in one location, with the Aussie storing them “in different places” around the world.

 

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Mark Webber
Journalist

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