17 Jun 2016

Aussie Grit

Photo from Google images

That's the title of Australian racing driver Mark Webber's autobiography which I have just read.
It really is an excellent read. Too often these sporting autobiographies and biographies are too glossy and hagiographic. In Aussie Grit Webber tells it like it is. He is often self deprecating and his ghost writer has done a good job of making it readable.
It's all there warts and all but it's far from all humble pie and modesty and you expect that from a top line racing driver. Of course I also enjoyed it because his views on the current state of F1 are very much in accord with mine and he is now a works Porsche team driver in the World Endurance Championship. He has very positive things to say about WEC sports car racing and Porsche management. I won't spoil it and say anymore. If you are into motor racing it is highly recommended.

I have had my own personal exposure to Webber's exceptional talent. Back in 1997 I was launching the MGF sports car in Australia. Now the MGF was/is a dull little sports car-nothing to get enthusiastic about and I feared that the local motoring media who were easily bored would be very bored by it at the media launch. So the media drive program was on the roads around Goulburn in Central NSW ending up at the Wakefield Park club motor racing circuit for a hillclimb competition up the circuit's hillclimb course. Now the hillclimb we put together was pretty tame using part of the back part of the circuit and then up a narrow winding track up a hill.
In those days the Aussie motoring journalists were a very competitive group and most were very good drivers so as soon as they saw the hillclimb spirits rose despite its short length.
Someone, and I am pretty sure that it was a journalist,invited along this very cocky local kid from nearby Quenbeyan who was doing very well in Formula Ford in Australia at the time. I clearly remember that he was very full of himself particularly at the media dinner that evening. After the journalists had each done a couple of runs up the hill in the MG the cocky kid was put in the car. The course was very short-it took just 36 seconds for the fastest driver-he had never even sat in the car before he drove it upto the start line,the car was a very modest performer and he had not even walked the hillclimb before yet alone driven it. He blitzed the field -he was nearly 1.5 seconds faster than the fastest "hot shoe" journo. That cocky local kid was,of course,Mark Webber.
This was my one and only exposure to him in person and I was very impressed by his driving talent that day.

As a postscript I did have my camera with me at that event but the negatives which probably contain photos of cocky young Mark Webber are not easily located.

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