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Webber targets return in February

By Andrew Benson

Mark Webber lies under heat-retaining blankets after breaking his leg on Saturday
Webber's crash happened in a remote area of Tasmania

Mark Webber is aiming to recover from his broken leg in time for the test debut of his Red Bull team's new Formula One car in February.

The Australian suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg in a mountain bike accident on 22 November.

"I'm aiming to drive the car at the first test," Webber told BBC Sport.

"Whether that's possible, I don't know, but if I have to wait another week or 10 days for the sake of the whole season, then I will."

Red Bull's new car is set to make its first on-track appearance on 10 February - nearly seven weeks before the start of the 2009 season in Melbourne, Australia, at the end of March.

"I will make sure I'm in the best shape I can be for the first race," said Webber.

"Both [lower leg] bones are broken but the compound fracture was of the tibia and the bone was exposed.

Mark Webber
I think a lot about Zanardi and these sort of guys. It's such an inspiration. I could be worse off

Mark Webber

"That complicates things a bit more but I am just learning to get up and about on crutches now.

"At the moment there is pressure and swelling whenever I stand up. There is talk it will be like that for the next two or three weeks and come the first week of February we should be on target for me to be able to walk unaided.

"And then the acceleration between the first week of Feb and the first week of March will be quite extreme in terms of me getting about.

"In terms of me driving the car, it is impossible for me to say how I will feel when the car comes out for the first time.

"We'll look at how much driving I'll do early on. If I have three decent tests going into Melbourne then I am totally focused on not letting the team down in final qualifying and on Sunday in Melbourne.

"That's a long way away - it's the last week in March. That's when it counts for me.

"I think it will be a bit slow to start with. I'm just going to have to get used to a few things the first time I drive the car but that won't last long at all.

"In a perfect world, I would do every single day and test we had in mind for pre-season but it's not just the leg that will be suffering.

"Early on, I will need to work on my general fitness, which will take some work but which again will be spot on for Melbourne."

Webber's accident happened while he was riding in his own charity event in Tasmania.

Mark Webber on his Pure Tasmania Challenge
Webber's Tasmania Challenge is a gruelling seven-day fitness marathon

The Mark Webber Pure Tasmania Challenge is a 250km endurance event consisting of mountain bike riding, kayaking and trekking on the Australian island.

The 32-year-old was riding along a forest road near historic Port Arthur when he collided with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

He revealed the initial time after the accident was "pretty tough".

"It's a pretty remote area and it's quite hard to get a helicopter up there as well - the forest canopy was quite tight - but there were good people there and it was all right."

Webber added: "It takes an unbelievable impact to break our bodies. It's unbelievable how strong we are."

He said that he was initially down after the accident but that the experience of other racers who had come back to compete after more serious injuries was an inspiration.

He cited the example of ex-F1 and IndyCar driver Alex Zanardi, who has returned to race in touring cars after losing both his legs in a crash in 2001.

"I think a lot about Zanardi and these sort of guys - [five-time world motorbike champion] Mick Doohan as well," he stated. "It's such an inspiration. I could be worse off."

Webber's accident leaves Red Bull relying on his team-mate, the inexperienced German Sebastian Vettel, for their testing in the meantime.

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That could be a hindrance to the team because there are major changes to the technical regulations, with refinements to the aerodynamics and the introduction of energy-storage systems.

But Webber said he was not concerned that the team's preparations would be affected by his lay-off - adding that he would try to attend as many tests as his rehabilitation allowed even before his injury has healed.

"I still could be there, physically," he added. "We've got a youngster who has got his head totally screwed on.

"There is a big regulation change and a lot of excitement for a lot of teams with the clean sheet of paper. I could go down to tests but I want to make sure it doesn't affect my rehab. The best thing is to concentrate on myself and work closely with the team and I'm ready when I'm ready.

"In a funny sort of way I'm looking forward to seeing the progress. I've never been in this position before in my life. I've got good people around me. The team have been amazing. I'll make sure we work very hard together to make sure it's seamless."



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see also
Webber breaks leg in bike crash
22 Nov 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber Q&A
07 Nov 08 |  Formula One


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FROM OTHER SPORT SITES
The Times Webber expects to line up for next Grand Prix - 10 hrs ago
The Times Webber expects to line up for Grand Prix in Melbourne - 24 Nov 2008
The Times Webber expects to line up for new F1 season - 24 Nov 2008
Daily Telegraph Australia Broken leg: Mark Webber pledges F1 comeback - 23 Nov 2008
Herald Sun Webber injured: F1 star's bad break - 23 Nov 2008


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