February 28, 2005 With the Australian Formula One Grand prix just seven days away, Australian F1 driver Mark Webber was part of one of the most spectacular promotions ever staged for the sport yesterday when the Sydney Harbour Bridge was closed exclusively for his 2004 model BMW WilliamsF1 FW26B. Webber’s five laps of the international landmark closed it to traffic for five hours while a full scale operation was put in place to create a safe and secure ‘field of play’. Webber drove across the bridge ten times, making ten U-turns, a major feat in itself given the car’s extra large turning circle.
The FW26B was previously run in Grands Prix in 2004 and was used for testing until recently. It is a full Grand Prix spec car and ran full wet rain tyres, insurance against the brooding early morning sky which threatened rain but only delivered light drizzle.
Webber drove cautiously, reigning in the massively powerful BMW V10-engined car yet still managed to race up through the gears to give Sydney-siders an unmistakable aural treat: that of a Formula One engine at close to full throttle. Webber said the experience was memorable and a little strange; crossing the harbour Bridge devoid of traffic was an unusual experience.
“The road was a little slippery and a little bumpy, but it was an amazing experience,” Webber said after. “I took it easy as the tyres were cold.”
“I was concentrating to make sure it all went smoothly. As I came over the crest each time and saw the empty road ahead it was incredible.”
After three years in F1, Webber moves up to the BMW WilliamsF1 Team this year with his best chance yet to get onto the podium and challenge for the Formula One crown.
While many Sydney F1 fans turned out to watch and hear the experience, the closing of the bridge, the main thoroughfare between North and South Sydney in Australia's largest city, was not a popular move with Sydney residents.