Hometown hero Mark Webber helped reinvigorate the spirits of local racers when the Queanbeyan-born racer returned to open the new track extension at the Canberra Kart Racing Club – now called Circuit Mark Webber.
Stopping onto his old track where he began his racing career 30 years ago, Webber said the new 1.1 km track – which was only 400 metres long when he started – has made the circuit in Pialligo a fantastic place for kids to start their karting careers.
“As a racing driver you always want more corners and there are some tricky little corners. That is what you want, you want to be challenged as a karter,” he said at the opening last week.
“I just kept thinking about the young kids who get the opportunity to drive karts here and the positives that happened to me coming here with my family and my dad.
“I would never have made Formula 1 if this track was not here.”
Known for his larrikin mannerisms, Webber made it all the way to the pinnacle of motorsports, racing for four different teams in Formula 1 and almost taking out the driver’s championship with Red Bull Racing in 2010.
He ended his career with 42 podium finishes and nine race wins, including the coveted Monaco Grand Prix in 2010.
“The party wasn’t too bad either,” Webber said, true to his style.
But no matter where in the world he was racing, Webber was always able to bring his winning attitude and Aussie grit back to the values his family instilled in him back at Fairbairn.
“I had posters of my heroes on the wall and [kept thinking] how would I ever go from Fairbairn to race in Monaco or to race in Formula 1? It is surreal,” he said.
“I did not grow up with everyone getting a ribbon for fifth place and it was trying to aspire to do better and compare yourself to the best and my dad put those values into me.
“He never raised his voice at me once and I think that was a really nice way for me to get better, both in racing and as a young lad.”
Craig Butt, who used to race with Webber, reminisced about his time on the track with the former Formula 1 star, saying that despite all the success he achieved, he never became too big for his boots.
“He was just a knockabout larrikin kid as a go-kart driver,” Butt told Region Media.
“Mark is exactly what you see and his family are exactly the same. They are just a grounded Queanbeyan family.”
The ACT Government put in $200,000 to extend the track by an extra 350-metres in a bid to help young racers hone their talents locally and follow in Webber’s footsteps
Webber lauded their efforts.
“Brilliant, brilliant job they have done and it will be a headache for a few guys to work [the new track] out.
“Having a track like this will bring more people interstate. The track is definitely a big step up so there will be more people travelling here.
“It is a nice little cherry on top that your name is on it, but at the end of the day it is about the people who can now use the facilities here.”
To find out more about karting, including Circuit Mark Webber, visit Karting Australia.