Mark Webber will quit Formula One at the end of the current season
Red Bull driver will join Porsche's new sportscar program
Webber has won nine grands prix and achieved 36 podium finishes
Endured difficult relationship with teammate and world champion Sebastian Vettel
Mark Webber will quit Formula One at the end of the season after signing a deal with Porsche to race at Le Mans.
The Australian, who will turn 37 in August, made the announcement Thursday, ending speculation over his future at Red Bull.
Webber has won nine grands prix, achieved 36 podium finishes and secured 11 pole positions during his 12-year career.
But his fractious five-year relationship with teammate and triple world champion Sebastian Vettel meant that his future at Red Bull was always the subject of conjecture.
Only last March, the pair were involved in a public feud after Vettel ignored team orders and passed Webber to win the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The incident left Webber incandescent with rage and although the German offered an apology, he later said he would do the same thing again.
Webber, who is fifth in the championship title race going into Sunday’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, came close to winning the crown in 2010 before faltering in the final three races.
Webber had previously enjoyed spells at Minardi, Jaguar and Williams, before joining Red Bull.
He will now turn his attention to helping Porsche win its 17th Le Mans race – a feat it has not achieved since 1998.
“It’s an honor for me to join Porsche at its return to the top category in Le Mans and in the sports car World Endurance Championship and be part of the team,” said Webber in a statement on his website.
“Porsche has written racing history as a manufacturer and stands for outstanding technology and performance at the highest level.
“I’m very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula 1.
“Porsche will undoubtedly set itself very high goals. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world.”
Webber has already experienced the 24-hour race at Le Mans after racing there with Mercedes in 1998 and 1999.
His first attempt ended after just 19 laps, while he somehow escaped injury the following year after his car was tipped over while he drove at a speed of 200mph.
“I’m very pleased to have secured Mark Webber for our LMP1 project as one of the best and most successful Formula 1 pilots of our time,” Wolfgang Hatz, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG said in a statement Thursday.
“Mark is without doubt one of the world’s best race drivers, he has experience at the Le Mans 24 hour race and on top of that he’s been a Porsche enthusiast for many years.”
The race to replace Webber is expected to include 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who currently stars for Lotus, while Torro Rosso’s Australian driver Dan Ricciardo could also be in the frame.