FORMER Formula 1 ace Mark Webber has described the esteemed and sometimes feared Mount Panorama circuit as “a mini ring”, comparing its gruelling toll on cars and drivers to Germany’s infamous Nurburgring.
The FIA GT champ has intimate knowledge of the universally respected ‘Green Hell’ having completed countless laps in his recent appointment as Porsche ambassador. After completing his first lap of Mt Panorama for 23 years, he said it’s every bit as demanding.
“Certainly here, no question about it,” he told Wheels at the recent Bathurst 12 Hour endurance race . “It’s a mini ring in terms of demands on the car.”
But while the gun steerer recognises the challenges of one of Australia’s most famous race circuits, he stopped short of saying manufacturers might develop or benchmark new vehicles at the mountain, in a similar fashion to the Nordschleife.
“Nurburgring has a lot of elevation gain, which Bathurst has as well but obviously the pure cycle around that lap, anything under seven minutes at Nurburgring is extremely quick and this a shorter lap.
“It’s a long lap by motor racing tracks, in terms of industry and manufacture, in terms of durability of testing, everything to make sure you can survive that seven minutes is probably a bit short here.”
Nor does it seem the track is set to become a battle ground for production car speed records.
Last year, Mercedes-AMG set a new standard road car lap record of a blinding 2:16.5, but Webber confirmed Porsche has no plans to try and steal that title from the GT R in its most potent hardware – the GT2 RS.
“I didn’t know anything about that (the GT R record),” he said. “There’s no GT2 here and plus you need to come here for a full day. You don’t trivialise it and we don’t do that at Porsche. If we are going to do something, as you know, we do it absolutely properly, as all of our Nordschleife attempts have been.”
For now, it seems the makers of the world’s fastest machines will continue to battle it out at the traditional venue, where the GT2 RS recently put in a manic 6:47.25.
Webber said that, while that record-breaking time is “extremely impressive”, the consistency with which the Porsche completed laps almost as fast as the final time was every bit as commendable.
“We’re extremely proud of how many lap times we did about the 6:50 bracket. Everyone talks about the 6:47, but we’re probably as proud as what the 6:47 stood for. It was a hell-of-a-lot of laps with two cars and not many manufacturers can do that and drive home that night.”
The last time Webber completed a lap of the Mountain was in 1995 at the wheel of a Formula Ford but, for his return, he took the passenger seat of a GT3 RS piloted by Porsche factory racer, Patrick Long.
“An American in the right-hand seat. What could possibly go wrong?” asked Webber.