Mark Webber today confirmed the return of the event that carries his name, the Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge, and here he talks all about it...

Q:
You've run a few of these events now, so how did it begin?

Mark Webber:
The first race was in 2003, when me and a few mates thought it would be fun to race across Tasmania! We got a few big names involved and it spiralled from there, with three big races between 2006 and 2008.

Q:
It was stopped after the 2008 edition - so why did you decide to bring it back now?

Mark Webber:
We ran four successful events but decided to stop in 2008 when economics made it tough to continue. Ever since then, I've always been itching to put it on again, and fortunately after securing some important support during 2010 we're in a position to bring it back. We now have an agreement for it to take place for at least the next three years.

Q:
So what exactly is the Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge?

Mark Webber:
It's a major multi-day multisport competition through the remote wilderness of Tasmania. It challenges competitors to kayak, trail run, trek, mountain bike and climb in the great outdoors - and we'll also throw in a few other surprises along the way! It's typical of the many popular adventure race events around the world and the aim is to make it open to all, from elite champions to people who've never tried it before.

Q:
What's the idea behind it?

Mark Webber:
I've always been passionate about the outdoors and the thrill of adventure. It's what I love to do away from F1. So I set up the Challenge partly as a platform to promote the great outdoors but also as the main fundraising event for the Mark Webber Challenge Foundation, which supports a variety of Australian charities. As a professional sports person, I feel privileged to be having so many special experiences and the Challenge offers a way for me to help support the important work of my chosen charities and environmental projects.

Q:
When and where is it going to take place?

Mark Webber:
This year, it will take place between December 7 and 11 and the course will take in some of the highlights of Tasmania, which has so many wild spots it really does justify its reputation as Australia's adventure playground! The course is never revealed in detail until 24 hours before the race so I can't give much away - but I can promise some stunning locations including the awesome Wineglass Bay and the fascinating historic region around Port Arthur.

Q:
Where does the money come from to run this?

Mark Webber:
We have some fantastic supporters that make this all possible. We have just announced a great Australian brand, Swisse multivitamins, as our title sponsor and we also have a key relationship with Tourism Tasmania and Pure Tasmania, who recognise the benefits the race offers in demonstrating that the state is one of the world's top adventure destinations. We are also very grateful to our other sponsors including LG, Rexona, Pirelli, and RedBull for their involvement and welcome other companies to join us on this exciting journey.

Q:
What's different about it this year?

Mark Webber:
Well, it's going to be bigger and better than ever - and I mean that! We now have three categories, and our main one is for two-person teams competing over the full five days. But we also have an invitational Ambassadors Cup, which will involve a number of global celebrities racing over the long weekend, and a mass participation event on the final day. By setting it up this way, we hope it will be accessible to as many people as possible while still involving some of the top adventure racing competitors from around the world.

Q:
How do you find time to organise the event - is it not a distraction from F1?

Mark Webber:
Ha! There is certainly a lot to do to put this on - but no, it doesn't take my focus off F1! While I like to know what is going on, I rely on a very trusted team of individuals in Australia and around the world to set it up, promote it and make sure it runs smoothly.

Q:
Which charities will benefit from it this year?

Mark Webber:
We will be raising funds for the Mark Webber Challenge Foundation, but we have not yet confirmed the specific charities we will support. Past events have raised funds for children's cancer research, the Leukaemia Foundation and the Save the Tassie Devil Appeal, but the specific 2011 charities will be named in due course.

Q:
So, which of your celebrity friends are going to take part this year?

Mark Webber:
I have a few ideas - but I'm not going to reveal them just yet! In the past we've had some fantastic stars from Australia involved and I certainly want to invite some of them again, as well as some new faces. I am also hoping to bring in some overseas personalities to get a taste of Tasmania.

Q:
Will you take part in the Challenge yourself this year?

Mark Webber:
Good question - but I'm afraid you'll have to wait for my answer on that one for now! At the moment, my focus is on the start of the new F1 season and all being well I will be concentrating on racing for race victories and chasing the world title throughout the year. Once the season is over, I will be able to decide whether or not to compete. As I said, I love adventure - it's my passion and I see myself doing this sort of thing for years after my time in F1, so to be honest it will be hard not to be tempted...!

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