Currently reading: The day Mark Webber drove my Porsche
When Autocar contributor Jesse Crosse met the Porsche works driver, he handed the Aussie ex-F1 star the keys to his old 911 Turbo

Mark Webber leans over the spoiler of my old Porsche 911 Turbo to pose for a photo when something catches his eye. 

“You could get them to take this panel out and paint that bit black again, mate,” he says, pointing at some tired bodywork beneath the spoiler’s grille.

The former Formula 1 star, now entering his second season as a Porsche LMP1 driver behind the wheel of the second-generation 919 prototype, is into the detail of cars.

His daily driver is a 911 Turbo S and he also owns a 356, which currently resides in Porsche’s museum in Stuttgart. He’s come to Silverstone to do a magazine shoot and Porsche asked if I’d bring my 930-generation Turbo along as the prop.

Webber’s 919 has an ultra-advanced hybrid drivetrain, which demands new driving techniques, but he is no stranger to traditional machinery either. He started out in Formula Ford 1600, and then moved through the ranks, so the racing cars on which he cut his teeth were all mechanical simpletons.

It’s difficult to know where to start introducing your own old car and its foibles to a bloke with Webber’s skill and experience, but my 911 is unrestored, has been around the block more than a few times and the 111,000-mile gearbox lacks any synchromesh on first gear.

“Far be it from me to teach my grandmother how to suck eggs,” I begin, handing over the keys to my treasured Porsche.

“No, mate, go ahead,” says the Aussie, with a grin.

“Well, imagine a Formula Ford Hewland gearbox filled with couscous and you’ve got the general idea.”

We set off in search of a location and chat about cars. Webber comes across as a disarmingly down-to-earth, friendly bloke and a dyed-in-the-wool petrolhead. He’s good company and we chat about cars and how older 911s take a bit of getting used to at first. He drove his first 911, a ‘964’, in Sydney aged 18.

“The clutch felt strange. It was completely alien to me. I was racing Formula Ford by then and this was the fastest road car I’d ever driven.”

Webber admits to being uneasy about electrified powertrains when they first emerged.

“I used to think ‘What a shame’. But then you drive the sports car and my god! The power! With a conventional engine, you work through its torque profile, and if you deploy more power at 150mph, it’s not that dramatic. But with the hybrid, whatever the speed range, the power is exponentially higher. When I first drove the 919 at Portimao, I had to lift on the straight. It felt like something was wrong.”

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We head back to the Porsche Experience Centre and Webber has a blast around the handling course. I’d normally be anxious about handing over the keys but I reckon my car is probably in safe hands. It’s a long way from a 919 but, in its day, the 930 911 Turbo was one of the world’s most powerful road cars and one of the first with a turbo.

Due to the late and quite sudden onset of boost, a rear-mounted engine and the complete lack of driver assistance systems, the 930 had a reputation for catching out the unwary back in the day, earning it the nickname ‘Widowmaker’. Webber pulls in. “What d’you reckon?” I ask. 

“The steering is well connected but without power assistance feels heavy by today’s standards,” he says, switching his brain to ‘racing driver download’ mode.

“The gearshifts and the way you interact with the gearbox need to be well understood when going a little quicker. The driving position hasn’t changed much since the 1960s. That deep-in-the-car position, the eyeline and wrist position have remained pretty constant.

“But the nicest thing for me is the power. Everything else feels old but the power is good and before its time probably. That would have been impressive back in the day. It starts late at over 3000rpm but revs freely after that to cover the long ratios. It must have been impressive for its time. You’ve got to respect that, and I do.”

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