MARK Webber was badly shaken but otherwise unhurt in a huge shunt that destroyed his Porsche 919 Hybrid in the closing stages of the Six Hours of Sao Paulo – the final round of the World Endurance Championship – at Interlagos this morning.
Running sixth with 26 minutes remaining, Webber lost the #20 Porsche at the flat-out turn that swings on to the start-finish straight and crunched the wall.
Rescue and medical staff took time to carefully extract Webber from the remains and clean up the wreckage of the Porsche and another car caught in the crash, a Ferrari driven by Matteo Cressoni.
The race finished under the safety car with Webber’s team-mates Neel Jani/Marc Lieb/Romain Dumas landing the first WEC victory for the returning Porsche factory squad, while Toyota sealed the manufacturers title.
Late rain added to the drama and intrigue at Interlagos but only heightened the intensity of the battle; with 90 minutes remaining the LMP1-H fight was still raging with all manufacturer entries in contention.
Webber’s Porsche, with co-drivers Tim Bernhard and Brendon Hartley, controlled the early stages of the race until a problem with the car’s ERS cost a couple of laps. Then came the crash.
Webber was stretchered to the infirmary but gave the thumbs up.
Anthony Davidson/Sebastien Buemi took second place for Toyota, while Le Mans superstar Tom Kristensen finished his brilliant professional career with a podium in the Audi he shared with Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval.
Davidson and Buemi had already secured the World Endurance Championship for drivers so the final race of 2014 focussed mainly on the manufacturers battle, the Japanese giant leading Audi by 40 points (with a maximum of 43 available to the Germans).
Qualifying brought a milestone for Mark Webber, the first time since his Porsche WEC career phase begun that his #20 919 Hybrid nailed pole.
The WEC qualifying is decided by the combined average of each driver’s fastest two laps.
“I was driving way over the top in the first session here,” Webber said. “I was braking too deep and expecting too much of the car, so I had to really peel it back, and then Timo [Bernhard] really put the session back on the rails and showed what the car could do. The tyres weren’t too bad when I got back in and I was pretty confident we could improve the average, which we did, and I was really happy with my last lap.”
But, as Webber already knew, the real contest happens on Sunday.