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Grade 7 English
3.11 Mark Alan Webber - An Australian Formula One Driver

Directions: Use the SQRW (Survey-Question-Read-Write) Strategy to read the following informational article. Answer the questions and have the notes you have taken while reading this article reviewed by your parent or teacher.
Mark Webber was born in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, son of Alan, the local motorcycle dealer. He started his relationship with sport young, working as a ball-boy for premiership winning rugby league team the Canberra Raiders during the late 1980s. However, motorsport was where his interest lay, later listing Formula One World Champion Alain Prost and Grand Prix motorcycle racer Kevin Schwantz as his childhood heroes. Starting out racing motorcycles, Webber moved to four wheels in 1991, taking up karting at the relatively late age of 15. He won the New South Wales state championship in 1993, and moved straight into the Australian Formula Ford Championship after his father bought him an ex-Craig Lowndes Van Diemen FF1600. Working as a driving instructor at Sydney's Oran Park between races, Webber finished 14th overall in his debut season. Continuing in the series in 1995, Webber scored several victories, including a win in the support race for the Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide. He finished the series in fourth place, but perhaps more importantly, teamed up with Championship co-ordinator Ann Neal, who secured him a seven-year sponsorship with Australian Yellow Pages, and would become his manager and accompany him on a trip to England in an attempt to start a career in Europe.

Webber was given a test at Snetterton with the Van Diemen team, and subsequently earnt a works drive for the team at the 1995 Formula Ford Festival, held at Brands Hatch. He finished third in his first international race, a result good enough to see him retained by the team for the 1996 Championship. Before moving to Europe permanently, Webber won the Formula Holden race at the 1996 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. During the 1996 British Formula Ford Championship, Webber took four victories on his way to second place overall, finishing his season strongly with a win in the Formula Ford Festival. He also won the Spa-Francorchamps race of the Formula Ford Euro Cup, taking third in the series despite competing in only two of the three rounds. His results throughout the year saw him voted as Australian motorsport's "Young Achiever" and "International Achiever" of 1996. Two days after his Festival victory, Webber completed a successful test for Alan Docking Racing, and was signed by the team to graduate to Formula Three in 1997.

Without the financial backing he had enjoyed during his time in Formula Ford, Webber and his team struggled to find the money to fund their championship campaign. He was almost forced to quit halfway through the season, but was able to obtain personal support from Australian rugby union legend David Campese, which helped him to complete the year. Webber took victory in just his fourth ever F3 race, at Brands Hatch, leading from start to finish and setting a new lap record in the process. He took a further four podium finishes, including a second place in the support race for the 1997 British Grand Prix, and finished the season in fourth overall. Webber also took strong finishes in the Marlboro Masters at Zandvoort (3rd) and the F3 Macao Grand Prix (4th), both times making his circuit debut. During the 1997 season, Webber was approached by Mercedes-AMG to participate in a sports car race. He initially declined the offer, but at the end of the year he was invited to participate in a test session for the team at A1-Ring in Austria. AMG were suitably impressed with Webber, and he was signed as the official Mercedes works junior driver for the 1998 FIA GT Championship, alongside reigning champion Bernd Schneider. Travelling around the world, including the United States, Japan and Europe, the pair won five of the ten rounds on their way to second in the overall standings, remarkably beaten to the Championship by teammates Klaus Ludwig and Ricardo Zonta by just 8 seconds in the final race at Laguna Seca.

Webber remained with the AMG team for 1999, and was promoted to his own race car for the season. However, his sportscar career came to an early end after he flipped twice on the straight in the lead up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans race that year. An aerodynamic fault on the team's cars caused Webber to spectacularly become airborne during both practice and race-day warm up, with the same fate befalling teammate Peter Dumbreck five hours into the race. Both drivers escaped uninjured, but the crashes forced Mercedes to shelve their sportscar program for the year and Webber to reconsider a return to open wheel racing. Webber spoke to Formula One team owner Eddie Jordan, who introduced him to fellow Australian Paul Stoddart. Stoddart offered to undercut the necessary $1.1 million budget for Webber, and gave him a drive in his Eurobet Arrows Formula 3000 team for 2000. As a result, Webber also got his first taste of a Formula One car, completing a two-day test at Barcelona in December 1999 for the Arrows F1 team.

Webber was signed as test driver for the Arrows F1 team for 2000, and also gained sponsorship from Australian beer company Foster's whilst competing in the F3000 Championship. Webber took victory in round two of the season at Silverstone Circuit, and finished the series with two fastest laps and three podiums on his way to third overall - the highest position of any rookie that year. Contract issues meant that Webber was never able to drive the Arrows A21 car, and rejected an offer of a full contract for 2001 in July. However, he was offered a three day evaluation test for Benetton at the end of the year, outpacing F1 drivers Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella at Estoril. The results were good enough to earn him the test driver role with the team for 2001, and he also agreed to take on team boss Flavio Briatore as manager in return for finance for a further F3000 season. Webber joined the championship-winning Super Nova Racing team, and despite winning at Imola, Monaco and Magny-Cours, he finished second overall to British driver Justin Wilson. Webber was replaced as test driver for Benetton for 2002 by Fernando Alonso, but Briatore managed to secure Webber a contract to race alongside Alex Yoong in the Stoddart-owned Minardi team, making him the first Australian in Formula One since David Brabham in 1994.

(Source: Wikipedia.org)

Q 1: Mark's dad was a ...?
A basketball player.
A motorcycle dealer.
A racer.
A drug dealer.

Q 2: Mark Webber's first sports related job was as a ...?
Interpreter.
Ball boy.
Liason.
Towel boy.

Q 3: Why was teaming up with Ann Neal more important than coming in 4th in the Australian Grand Prix?
Because he became his best friend.
Because he raced similar cars.
Because it let to a sponsorship and he became his manager.
Because he beat him in all the other races.

Q 4: Mark was almost forced to quite the Formula Three because...?
Because of personal problems.
Of money.
Because of demanding fans.
Because of illness.

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Question 6: This question is available to subscribers only!


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