Absent from the recent Barcelona group test, Mark Webber is not exactly idle and enjoying life back on the farm at home in Australia.

Instead, the Red Bull Racing favourite is welcoming adrenaline junkies to Cradle Mountain Chateau, where competitors - including Olympic swimmer Michael Klim and athlete Tatiana Grigorieva - are gathering in anticipation of the latest Mark Webber Pure Tasmania Challenge, which will push them to limits around some of the island's most picturesque regions.

Competitors will be given the race brief on Saturday [17 November], outlining the 450km course they will tackle over the next seven days. However, while maps are provided, race director Tim Saul has ensured that navigational skills will be put to the test during each 80km daily leg. Saturday's prologue will set the start times for the remainder of the event as well as giving competitors a chance to gauge their own form and fitness against the rest of the field.

Webber, a keen adventure racer, teamed up with Ford Performance Racing V8 Supercar driver Steven Richards in a mini 'urban Challenge' to promote both his own event and the coinciding V8 Supercar Falken Tasmania Challenge at Symmons Plains on Thursday, taking on V8 drivers Cameron McConville and Paul Dumbrell and a team of local firemen amongst others in front of 750 primary school children.

In just under eight minutes, the competitors underwent a series of fire-drills - including donning a fireman's jacket and helmet, racing down the field to unroll a fire hose which then needed to be connected and, once successfully hooked up to the barrel, competitors had to drag a fully-weighted mannequin around the fire truck back to the start line to tag their partner.

The V8 drivers got a great start, but with some dubious tactics by Webber while behind the fire truck saw the F1 ace come out in front and cross the line some ten metres in front of McConville. The tactics did not fool the local heroes, however, and, despite a 30-second handicap, firefighters Adrian Adam and Charlie Watson emerged as winners.

Although unable to attend this year, Renault F1's Heikki Kovalainen is expected to compete in next year's Challenge, while rumour has it that a number of other F1 drivers are keen to come down under to race Webber off the track - even if the Aussie's home-grown advantage would have to have him down as favourite.

Follow Webber's progress in Tasmania by logging onto www.markwebberchallenge.com and selecting the Tenzeng tracking site to watch 'live' as competitors thrash it out.

 

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