Formula One racer Mark Webber has undergone surgery to insert a rod into his lower right leg, both bones of which were broken in a collision with a car during the Mark Webber Pure Tasmania Challenge on Saturday in Australia.
Webber was competing in the mountain-biking segment of the challenge when he was hit by a car on an open road. Surgery, deemed successful, was performed at Royal Hobart Hospital, where he was airlifted after the accident near Port Arthur. Tasmania is the island state of Australia to the southeast of the continent.
Webber's F1 team, Red Bull Racing, said the Australian will stay in Tasmania for a few days before returning to his home in England to begin rehabilitation. He is expected to miss offseason testing, which began this week in Spain and continues next month and into the new year. The team expressed confidence Webber will be on the grid March 29 for the Australian Grand Prix, the first race of the 2009 F1 season. The 2009 season starts two weeks later than the 2008 season.
"Mark has said he's relieved to know the driver of the motor vehicle was uninjured and [he] expressed his thanks to the many well wishes of family, friends and supporters," a Red Bull statement read.
Early reports suggested Webber had broken other bones in addition to the fibula and the tibia of his right leg, but his website posted a message saying he suffered no injuries beyond bruising and a scratched left arm.
Webber, 32, is one of the fittest drivers in Formula One. His enthusiasm for biking has seen him develop a friendship with seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. Webber began the extreme endurance challenge in Tasmania four years ago to combine his interest in fitness sports with a desire to benefit Australian charities.
Webber, who calls the event an adventure race, was partnered with Australian actor Daniel MacPherson at the time of the accident; MacPherson was not involved in the accident. Webber was also to partner with Australian multisport athlete Christie Sym during the event.
The Daily Mail newspaper in London quoted Webber manager Geoff Donahue from Hobart, who said, "He's in surprisingly good spirits. He's keen to get back into his running, mountain biking and kayaking as soon as possible, and getting back into doing the job for Red Bull again."
Donahue said he was "exceptionally confident" Webber will be ready for the next F1 season.
"We have no concerns about him racing next season," Donahue told the Daily Mail.
The accident happened on the penultimate day of the five-day event.
In his second season for Red Bull and his seventh in F1, Webber finished 11th in driver standings for the 2008 season. His highest ranking was 10th, in 2003 for Jaguar and again in 2005 for Williams. His first season in F1 was spent with Minardi, for whom he finished fifth in the 2002 Australian Grand Prix on his F1 debut. A native of Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Webber is the fourth Australian to score points in the FIA Formula One World Drivers' Championship, and the first to race F1 since the 1994 appearance of David Brabham, son of three-time world champion Jack Brabham.