Mark Webber debuts for Porsche in Portugal test

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Former Red Bull Racing Formula One driver Mark Webber has closed out Porsche’s testing program for 2013 on its new LMP1 car that will debut next year in the World Endurance Championship.

Webber, who announced his move to the WEC this past summer and closed out his F1 career with a runner-up in Brazil last month, was given permission to do the test by Red Bull, which still has him under contract until Jan. 1, 2014.

“My first day in this fascinating project was an intense experience for me,” said Webber after his run at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal. “I would like to thank Red Bull Racing for giving me the chance to join the project so early.

“This is a major and important step for us all. It allows me to integrate with the team quicker and to contribute to further developing the LMP1 race car. We have a long way to go and it involves a lot of hard work. I have no misconceptions about this.”

Porsche’s testing in Portugal centered around suspension and tire testing with its partner, Michelin. The manufacturer’s LMP1 boss, Fritz Enzinger, emphasized the extent of testing that has taken place – saying that “significant progress” has been made up to this point.

“Every single kilometer was important, providing us with new data that brought the development forward,” said Enzinger. “The whole team has worked extremely hard and I would like to express my sincere thanks for this.

“Our efforts will continue unabated in 2014. Until the start of the [WEC] season at Silverstone [in] mid-April, there is still a lot to do.”

Up to Portugal, the Porsche factory team had also tested at multiple tracks such as France’s Magny-Cours and Paul Ricard, Italy’s Monza, and Germany’s Eurospeedway Lausitz.

Webber is one of four confirmed drivers so far for the Porsche WEC program in 2014, along with Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani.

The team is expected to put two more drivers on their roster relatively shortly, with speculation most focused on Brendon Hartley and Marc Lieb as the potential additions.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski