(CBS Local)- Superstar Racing Experience promised big names when it launched in July of this year. It has already delivered on that promise with Tony Stewart, Tony Kanaan, Paul Tracy, Bobby Labonte, Helio Castroneves and Willy T. Ribbs signing on to drive in its inaugural season. Now, another motorsports star is joining the driver ranks in former F1 and FIA World Endurance Championship driver Mark Webber.
Webber, who last raced in 2015 when he won the World Endurance Championship title driving for Porsche, says that the opportunity to get closer to the racing scene in the U.S. and the chemistry with Ray Evernham and other drivers was a big reason for joining.
“I’ve been coming to the U.S. every summer since I stopped competing and so I love being in the states that time of year. I’ve been to several IndyCar events, been to some NASCAR, some sprint car in Knoxville and all the rest of it. And, I’ve spent a bit of time with Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon and the like and I just love spending time with those guys and through Ray, the opportunity came up,” said Webber. “I’ve looked up to a lot of them (the drivers) of course whether it’s Smoke (Tony Stewart), Tony (Kanaan) and all the rest of them. Helio, I mean God, we’re off to a great start with who is joining.”
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For Webber, it will be a new experience in more ways than simply racing at new tracks stateside. He’ll be running on an oval for the first time in his racing career something that he acknowledges will be an “education.”
“Zero. Absolutely zero. There’s no oval tracks in Europe, it doesn’t exist,” said Webber with a laugh when asked about whether he’s had a chance to get a feel for ovals yet. “I think I need to come over a bit earlier. I might try and get on to some dirt tracks in the summer in Australia during the offseason just even some small stuff to get a feel for it in general.”
Worries about picking up on how to race an oval aside, Webber is particularly intrigued by the set-up of the series. Coming from Formula 1 (where he earned 9 wins and 42 podiums from 2002-13), the top teams often spend multiples more than the teams lower than them in the standings. That can lead to vast differences in the performance of the cars. With SRX drivers all getting the same cars and equipment, it makes for a level of excitement not knowing who will adjust the quickest to the new set-up.
“No one knows who is going to jump into these things and enjoy them and understand what they need on all of the little great circuits that we’re going to. Motorsport fans are in for a real treat with how they’re lining it up,” said Webber. “And of course with Ray we have an engineering masterclass from him in terms of giving us a challenging car to drive but still being able to race each other.”
Webber says he hasn’t yet gotten the chance to talk with some of the other drivers signed up for the circuit but he’s looking forward to the opportunity, suggesting a Zoom call with everybody once the full driver lineup is out. One thing is certain. Saturday nights on CBS next summer are going to feature some incredible driving.