Mark Webber has confirmed long-standing rumours about his future by announcing that he is to leave F1 at the end of the current season to join Porsche's new LMP1 sportscar programme.
The Australian has been linked with the move for a number of months and has now agreed a multi-year deal that will switch him switch to the World Endurance Championship from 2014 onwards.
The deal will also see Webber return to Le Mans for the first time since his ill-fated second appearance with Mercedes back in 1999, when he failed to take the start after his car suffered a huge accident in the warm-up.
Following his previous spell in sportscars, Webber made the move into single-seaters with a successful move into F3000 before securing his place on the F1 grid with Minardi.
Having picked up points on his debut in Australia, Webber spent time with both Jaguar and Williams before signing with Red Bull in 2007.
Since then, the 36-year-old has gone on to win nine times, with eleven pole positions and a total of 36 podium finishes, although he has been overshadowed in recent years by the form of team-mate Sebastian Vettel; who has taken the title for the past three years.
Webber's somewhat fractious relationship with the German was widely expected to lead to the Australian seeking a fresh challenge, with Vettel's actions in the Malaysian Grand Prix – when he ignored team orders and overtook Webber for the lead – being seen by many as the final straw.
It comes as little surprise therefore to see Webber become the fourth name confirmed in Porsche's line-up after Neel Jani and long-time factory drivers Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard.
“It's an honour 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,” Webber said. “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.”
Wolfgang Hatz, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG, said the German manufacturer was delighted to have Webber onboard for its new programme, which will see it return to the highest level of sportscar competition for the first time since 1998.
“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,” he said. “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.”