Mark Webber has praised his medical team for helping him to return to fitness sufficiently quickly to be able to resume winter testing ahead of the 2009 Formula 1 campaign - especially given that, less than three months ago, his right leg was 'facing in the other direction'.

The Red Bull Racing star faced a long road back to recovery after breaking his leg in two places when he collided with a car whilst on a downhill mountain-biking leg of his annual, charity Pure Tasmania outdoor adventure challenge in late November.

That left some surmising that he would not be back on-track again in time for the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in front of his partisan supporters in Melbourne next month, but the man himself was never anything less than fully committed to getting back into the cockpit once more - and that tireless work ethic has paid off.

"It did seem like a long time," he confessed, speaking exclusively to Radio. "Obviously eleven weeks beforehand my leg had been facing in the other direction, so I had to work pretty hard to get back into the car and I was very determined.

"I had told the team around me that was the date we should aim for. Some people weren't that keen, but some people were keen to make it happen for me - so we stuck with those people and we made it happen."

Indeed he did, and as part of his rehabilitation process in Europe the 32-year-old endured sessions where he stood in sub-zero temperatures for periods of three minutes at a time, with lows dipping as far as -140?C - an exercise designed to increase the blood flow to his injured leg.

"It's a chamber which has the ability to go to minus 140 degrees," he explained, quite coolly. "I did some small sessions in that, which basically accelerates the healing process - allegedly. You never know what you would have been like if you hadn't done it, but I did that for two-and-a-half or three weeks, and I'll probably continue to do a few sessions this week."

Such efforts ultimately culminated in Webber returning to action for the first time in the group test at Jerez in southern Spain last week, and he wasted little time in getting back down to business again. Having originally anticipated completing 70 laps over the course of his two days behind the wheel of the new, Adrian Newey-penned and Renault-powered RB5, the New South Wales native in fact covered 145 - and not only that, but they were quick laps, too.

"I'd never been down this path before in terms of being pretty wounded and injured going into an off-season," he mused, "and obviously coming off the back of that and getting myself prepared to do a test. Naturally there are a few nerves floating around anyway, because it's a new car as well. A lot of people have put a lot of effort into this, and it's also then down to me to contribute to the programme.

"I made it very clear to the team that I didn't want to affect the programme at all in winter testing until I could make sure that I could do the laps that would help the team. There were a few questions answered very, very quickly, which was good, and then we just got on with it.

"We were very happy, to be honest. There were a lot of bonuses. I was expected to do 30 laps on the first day, and try if we could to get 70 laps done for the whole week, but I did 150 or so laps for the whole week and 83 laps on my first day with no discomfort.

"We were pleasantly surprised with how I stood up to returning to the car having been out of it for three-and-a-half months, which is the longest I've ever been out of a car. The rest of the body stood up to it pretty well too, and I'm happy with my shoulder as well - because I also had a shoulder problem - so it's all good."




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