Mark Webber is still flying high after claiming the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship alongside co-drivers Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain.
The Formula One veteran, who made the transition to sports car racing last year in Porsche’s return to top-level prototype racing, enjoyed a dominant season, claiming a season-high four wins and only finishing off the podium twice.
It came in a season that saw Porsche set itself apart from the rest, toppling defending World Champions Toyota and even outpacing perennial favorites Audi.
“I’m very happy to have the momentum with such an incredible brand that come in, basically, in 18 months and lifted the bar so high against some really organized teams,” Webber said.
“Audi have been there for so long. They had to deal with Peugeot not too long ago. They were a little bit on their own for a while.
“But now when you see us arrived, I think we brought a little bit of a different mentality, we brought a little bit of F1 here and there and we brought a whole new style.
“For me, it’s a massive moment to win a world title with Porsche. That’s the most important thing for me at the moment.”
Despite his successful career, including a 11-year stint in F1, the WEC title is remarkably Webber’s first championship, after more than two decades in the sport.
Rightfully so, the 39-year-old Australian ranks it as one of his biggest accomplishments in his career to date, as he, Bernhard and Hartley become the first Porsche World Champions since Derek Bell in 1986.
“To be World Champion in sports cars at this level… OK, there’s not 26 cars on the same pace but there’s five or six cars [at top pace],” he said.
“The drivers in this championship are very, very strong. They’re specialists in this championship and they’re very, very quick.
“It’s been a big learning curve to get the most out of myself in this championship but I think this year I contributed well.
“The whole thing has gone as smooth as I could [have hoped] and that’s why I feel completely part of the World Championship.”
Webber admits he struggled last year in his first season of WEC competition, and was arguably one of the weaker links within the Porsche Team.
A heavy season-ending crash at Interlagos, which sent him to the hospital, brought a dramatic end to the year, but provided a reset button of sorts heading into 2015.
“For me, the car is a bit nicer this year,” he said. “Last year I was not completely happy with the car and had to get used to the new category and how it was.
“This year, we obviously put more downforce on the car, which of course I’m used to, so it’s been more back in my favor so I can drive the car a bit nicer.”
Webber’s also played a key part in the development of both first and second-generation 919 Hybrids, lending his F1 experience to the German squad, which is made up mostly of ex-F1 personnel.
“I think my experience in that area has been enjoyable to work on the development of the car,” he said.
“I’ve worked hard with the team and always find new areas we can find time and not accept that the last race was enough.
“After Le Mans, I saw the team so happy, so excited that they were nearly ready for Le Mans next year. I said, ‘C’mon, we have all these races to go.’
“The regulations are not changing much next year, a little bit of fuel flow here and there but nothing big. So we had to keep learning as much as we could, all the way to Bahrain, which we did.
“We improved the car a lot since Le Mans and that will start again in Silverstone next year.”
With both Audi and Toyota rolling out with all-new cars for 2016, the bullseye will be on Porsche’s back, as Webber and co. will be looking to defend their world crown in what will likely be an even tougher fight.