TOMORROW will mark a significant day for arguably Queanbeyan's most recognised international sports star as motorsport legend Mark Webber returns to the stage where his racing career began at the 24 Heures Le Mans in France.
The race is billed as the largest event on the World Endurance Championship racing calendar- attended by up to 200,000 fans- and is considered one of the largest racing events in world motorsport.
But for former Canberra Raiders ball boy in Queanbeyanite Webber, his return to the race in Frances north-western province of Maine marks 15 years since he kick-started international level racing with Mercedes during a two-day period where he could have died twice.
"Coming over the crest of the hump [during practice at Le Mans] I thought of the very different experience I had there in 1999, but it actually, and thankfully, felt like another lifetime," said Webber on his official website.
Webber was just 23 years of age when racing at Le Mans in 1999 for Mercedes. He flipped twice in a faulty CLR Prototype- the first time during qualifying, and the second on the warm-up track with the car re-built.
Remarkably Mercedes let that car model race, and while Webber did not start, fellow Mercedes driver Peter Dumbreck's car went flying into trees, and did not finish the race.
But after 14 seasons of Formula One racing, the time has come for Webber to face the famous Le Mans circuit again.
"I am certainly more relaxed going into the race than I was 15 years ago," he said.
Webber and his Porsche team practiced at Le Mans a fortnight ago, completing 90 laps on the 13.629 kilometre circuit and reaching top speeds of 330 km/h on the straights.
"To come here with a Porsche 919 Hybrid is a big day for all of us and practice ran smoothly...we worked on balance and set-up of the car. We are constantly improving and again we learnt a lot."