Mark Webber celebrates 200th grand prix in Bahrain

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The 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix holds a particularly special meaning for Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber, as he will celebrate his 200th grand prix today.

Webber made his debut in 2002 for backmarkers Minardi, before spending a couple of years with Jaguar and then moving to Williams for the 2005 season. He found some success with the British team, but he opted to move to Red Bull in 2007 to partner David Coulthard. In 2009, he was joined by Sebastian Vettel in what turned out to be Red Bull’s breakthrough season. Webber won his first grand prix in Germany, and then scored his second win in Brazil on his way to 4th in the championship.

2010 saw Webber win four races, but he missed out on the world championship at the final race, eventually finishing third behind champion Vettel and Fernando Alonso. 2011 saw Vettel run away with the title, and Webber played a support role, claiming just one win in Brazil. However, he was back to his best in 2012 to win for a second time in Monaco, and also win his first British Grand Prix. He could not keep up with Vettel and Alonso towards the end of the season though, and he eventually finished the championship in sixth place.

Webber’s career has seen some spectacular highs, and many regard him as the second greatest Australian driver of all time behind triple champion Jack Brabham. His team honored him this morning with a cake and celebration in the Red Bull garage, and he will be hoping to make it a 200th race to remember despite starting 7th on the grid.

Sebastian Vettel and Helmut Marko did not attend the celebration this morning.

Plans for Alonso sports car debut in Rolex 24 gathering speed

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Plans for McLaren Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso to appear in next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona are gathering speed as the two-time World Champion angles for a drive at Le Mans in 2018.

Alonso announced on Thursday he had signed a new, multi-year deal to remain with McLaren in F1, but has left the door open to continue his pursuit of the Triple Crown of Motorsport and become just the second driver in history to complete it.

Alonso has won the Monaco Grand Prix twice and made his Indianapolis 500 debut this year, retiring with an engine issue, and has made no secret of his ambition to race at Le Mans one day.

With no date clashes, the possibility exists for Alonso to race at Le Mans in 2018, potentially with Toyota in the LMP1 class following McLaren’s split with Honda.

However, Alonso could make his 24-hour race debut five months earlier, with reports emerging on Thursday that he could be in line to appear in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

First reported by Sportscar365, Alonso could be set to race for McLaren executive director Zak Brown’s team, United Autosports, at Daytona in January, with no clashes existing with his F1 commitments.

Alonso remained coy when asked about the chances of him appearing at Daytona, but admitted additional preparation for a possible Le Mans appearance would be of interest.

“For the Indy 500 it was a nice experience, I felt very competitive but it was a big challenge that I took from zero, from no testing, not any similar race before it,” Alonso said, as quoted by Reuters.

“If I want to prepare Le Mans, maybe there are other possibilities to prepare Le Mans a little bit better than I prepared the Indy 500.”

He added more about his other race program in Thursday’s pre-race Paddock Pass episode, speaking to NBCSN. “To be the best driver in the world you have to win in different series at different times. It’s possible I can compete in different races next year,” he said.

Brown said he would be happy to field Alonso at Daytona, and confirmed their pair had already loosely discussed it.

“If Fernando wants to do Daytona and we have a seat available, we would put his name on it happily,” Brown said.

“We’ve started joking around about it, and we saw where jokes got us last time,” he added, referencing the eventual entry to the Indy 500.

United Autosports will field two JS P217 cars at Daytona in January, and has already confirmed ex-F1 racer Paul di Resta, McLaren junior Lando Norris, American endurance racer Will Owen and Danish youngster Philip Hanson in seats.

McLaren reserve and 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button had been linked with a drive for United Autosports at Daytona, but Brown confirmed to Sportscar365 this was no longer an option.

“Jenson won’t be driving for us. I don’t know what he’s going to be doing,” Brown said.

“I thought he was going to be in the Penske car. Not sure what happened there.”