Andretti Autosport's Mike Conway says he is ready to compete in his first IndyCar Series race in ten months after making a full recovery from last year's horrific Indianapolis 500 crash.
The British single-seater racer is due to line up on the grid for the 2011 IndyCar season-opener at St. Petersburg next Sunday, to begin what he claims is a 'make-or-break' year.
It has been a long road to recovery for Conway, who suffered fractures to his left leg and back after surviving the spectacular 220mph accident in last year's Indy 500, which sidelined him for the remainder of the season. While the crash is the abiding memory of his second visit to the Brickyard, it could have been so different. The former British F3 Champion was in contention for a podium after leading 15 laps, before his race ended dramatically in the catch-fencing on the penultimate lap.
After months of physiotherapy, the Kent-born driver – who switched from Dreyer & Reinbold Racing to Andretti Autosport in January – is not only ready to return to competition, but determined to clinch his maiden win this year.
“I feel ready for the first race, although I've had a limited amount of miles in the car,” he said. “It felt good, and all the team are excited and motivated for the first race. I think we have a good enough car to be up there; I couldn't be more ready. The first one is going to be really exciting, because it's been a long time since my last and I can't wait.
“It's very important for the long-term that I prove myself this year so I can have some more seasons in the IndyCar Series. It was looking a bit touch-and-go at the start of this year, but things came together. It's a huge opportunity for me, and I really have got to make the most of it. These opportunities don't come around too often, and I really think we have a chance to win races this year.”
Since returning to the cockpit at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier this month, Conway has made steady progress in testing. He set the eighth-fastest time during Monday's official test at Barber Motorsports Park, before a spin limited his running the following day.
“We are trying to be in front of the whole pack, not just the Andretti guys, but it was positive for us,” he added.
The new Indycar season begins next Saturday with qualifying for Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
by Tom Howard