Andretti Autosport's British driver Mike Conway battled his way back from a disappointing qualifying and a mid-race clash with Sebastien Bourdais to claim a top ten finish in the final Indy Japan race at Motegi on Sunday.
It was the series' first (and sadly last) race at Motegi on the road course configuration, and the almost-European-style nature of the road circuit appealed to Conway and suited his style. "The circuit is cool and I had a lot of fun," he said after his first laps on Friday.
After a promising series of runs in practice on Saturday that saw him in the top ten in both hour-long sessions, Conway was then very frustrated when he was unable to duplicate that form in qualifying and failed to make it through his group stage in round 1 later in the afternoon.
"We were running quite well in the first practice session but then struggled to pull together a strong lap on Saturday for qualifying," he said. "I'm obviously disappointed that the @FollowAndretti car didn't make it through further in qualifying. Our first lap was okay but then I went off and after that we just didn't put a lap together.
"It's too bad because we ran well all day," he added, after ending up with a less-than-hoped-for grid position of 20th.
The team as a whole didn't have a great qualifying performance, with Ryan Hunter-Reay only a little way ahead in 17th and Danica Patrick starting from 23rd, but at least Marco Andretti seemed to have a feel for Motegi's unfamiliar road layout and managed to make it into round 2, qualifying in a respectable tenth place.
That gave the team - and Conway in particular - a challenge to rise to, and they dealt with the Saturday disappointment by coming on strong in Sunday's race. Mindful of the old mantra that 'you can't win a race on the first lap, but you can sure lose it', Conway started off playing it cautiously but still picked up two positions and was up to 18th by the time the first caution came out for Joao Paulo de Oliveira's retirement on lap 19.
The mêlée at the restart which saw Dario Franchitti hit Ryan Briscoe and also catch out Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball near the front of the field proved to be an opportunity for Conway, who leaped up to 11th place as a result of steering clear of the trouble.
Once the race got back underway, Conway sensed that this was the moment to press home his advantage and started to make his way through the field, climbing to fifth place by lap 40.
"We managed to work our way steadily up through the field and were looking good for a strong points finish in fifth place or better," said Conway describing his race later on. Unfortunately that proved to be a high-water mark for the #27.