The 2012 off-season is just weeks away, and while many F1 drivers might use this as a time to kick back and celebrate their achievements of the past year, for Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber, he’s heading back home to compete in the annual Tasmania Challenge endurance event that bears his name.
Qualifying Lap radio show host and RichardsF1.com features writer Ben Waterworth caught up with Webber to talk about one of Australia’s ultimate endurance challenges…
It’s November in Tasmania. The cold months have passed by as spring enters its final days. Just as the tourists flock to take pictures of the towering trees and the rugged mountains, some of the world’s leading multi sport competitors cause a disturbance in what is fast becoming one of the world’s leading adventure races.
The Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge is back for 2012, and while 340 kilometres of competitive racing doesn’t sound like ‘downtime’ to most, it is the perfect way for Australian Formula 1 superstar Mark Webber to unwind after a gruelling eight-month season that takes him to 20 different races spanning five continents.
During his busy winter schedule, I spoke to Mark about this year’s challenge and why he feels Tasmania is the perfect place to hold the challenge.
“Really, there is no better place anywhere in the world to do an adventure race than Tasmania. The terrain is breathtaking and it is so accessible.” he says about the location of his challenge since 2006.
And in six years the challenge has changed from a six-day event covering 600 kilometres to the five-day event it is today. With Tasmanian Government support of the event leading right up till 2013, it is fast becoming a staple part of the Tasmanian sporting calendar.
“The Government have been really supportive of the concept so I’m just thrilled to have the event in Tasmania,” Mark says. “We have come a long way already since I started it, but now we want to take the next step.”
Part of that next step is introducing prize money to this years event for the first ever time. The top three elite teams who cross the line will share $30,000 in prize money and adds an extra incentive for people competing in this year’s race.
“The addition of prize money is another step to increase the competition at the elite end of the field,” Mark says.
“The course looks awesome. It is more than the distance itself that defines this test, as each stage has a special twist. The details remain a secret until each morning of the race, but last year was brilliant, yet this looks even better.”
The event sees more than just running challenges, with the addition of mountain biking and kayaking making up the three core components. There are also added ‘adventure activities’ to take in, which can range from swimming in the ocean to reach a remote area or abseiling off a 90-metre cliff. No matter what, the event is a challenge which anybody from the most elite of athletes to the casual fitness fan can take part in.
“The Challenge isn’t all about elite athletes;” Mark adds, “We’ve had people turn up to compete who have never done anything like it before and they’ve amazed themselves by getting through the whole event – for many of them it’s been a life-changing experience and it’s great to see them having a go.”
The 2011 event saw the addition of the Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge Run, which gave everyone the chance to race against Webber around the streets of Hobart. This will return again in 2012 with Mark relishing the chance once again to mingle with the locals and experience the Tasmanian way of life.
“The people of Tasmania are fantastic – very friendly and very supportive of my career,” Mark says, “Tasmania is a fantastic part of the world and I love to come down and enjoy it whenever I can, which, given my current commitments, isn’t as often as I’d like.”
Given Mark has now extended his contract at his Red Bull team for another season in 2013, he hopes to continue his Formula 1 career for as long as he possibly can and despite competing in one of the world’s most glamorous and dangerous sports, he always manages to reflect on his experiences in Tasmania and find them inspirational as he battles for sporting greatness.
“As I say to everyone at the start [of the challenge], no matter how tired you get, no matter how bad you feel, just remember to look up. Because along the way you see some amazing things and they are really inspiring.”
*Reproduced with the permission of Ben Waterworth and the Tasmanian Life magazine, where the interview transcript first appeared in its Spring/Summer edition.
Images via LAT and Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge