He may be leaving a big hole in Formula One when he quits at the end of the year, but Mark Webber is happy with his decision and is looking forward to a new challenge.
The amiable Australian will leave F1 11 years after joining the Minardi team run by compatriot, Paul Stoddart, since when he has contested 208 grands prix, winning nine of them and racking up nearly 1000 points with teams including Jaguar, Williams and for the past seven years, Red Bull Renault.
One of the most popular drivers on the grid, Webber enjoys respect amongst teams as well as the wider F1 public, but he insists he is content to leave it all behind when he returns to sportscar racing in 2014.
"It's the right time for me to leave," Webber tells AOL Cars at a sponsor event in London, adding: "It's been a good few years but I'm ready for the next challenge in my career."
That challenge will be with Porsche which has revived its factory sportscar programme after 15 years to compete in the World Endurance Championship. Webber will be driving alongside Timo Benhard, Roman Dumas and Neel Jani as the German marque attempts to wrest the WEC crown away from Audi which has dominated endurance racing for more than a decade.
The WEC campaign will include a return for Webber to the Le Mans 24 Hours where he raced with Mercedes in 1998 and returned the following year where he and tem-mate Peter Dumbreck were involved in two huge – and identical – accidents when their cars took off and flipped through the air. Remarkably neither driver was hurt but doesn't an accident like that make him think twice?
"No, not really. When you start racing you can't expect to be wrapped in cotton wool. Accidents happen and when they do, you have to move on," he says.
Racing in the WEC also means Webber will be reunited with a former sportscar and F1 rival – Allan McNish. A Le Mans winner with Porsche in 1998, the Scot is on course for winning this year's WEC title with Audi and previously told AOL Cars that the paddock would welcome Webber back with open arms – until the first corner.
"Ha, yeah, well that's right," Webber smiles. "There are some really strong drivers in the WEC, very competitive. I wouldn't expect to get any special treatment. I'm looking forward to it."
The 36-year-old is also looking forward to racing with Porsche.
"Porsche has written racing history as a manufacturer and stands for outstanding performance and technology at the highest level," he said.
"I'm very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula 1."
Of course, Webber still has seven races left to run with Red Bull before he moves on. So far, Webber has been unable to add to his nine grand prix wins, so does he think he could make it to double figures?
"I hope so, but we'll have to see."
Mark Webber was talking to AOL Cars as a representative of GEOX, sponsor of the Red Bull Racing team