It was 133 days ago that James Hinchcliffe suffered a massive accident in practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 18, the week before the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.

The #5 Schimdt Peterson Motorsport car snapped into the wall at turn 3 after a suspension failure. A part of the car's right front rocker penetrated the driver safety cell and pierced Hinchcliffe's left thigh resulting in extensive blood loss that was stemmed by quick action from the Holmatro Safety Team that was instantly on the scene.

Since then Hinchcliffe has undergone two surgeries and a lengthy rehabilitation process that ruled him out of competition for the rest of the year. His place in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series was taken up by Ryan Briscoe and Conor Daly.

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"A lot of it was based on healing," said Hinchcliffe, explaining why it had taken so long for him to be able to get back in the car. "I was honest with myself. I wasn't going to lie just to get back in the car sooner. I wanted to make sure that when I got back I was back for good.

"The doctors, to their credit, they left a lot of it in my hands. They don't know how I feel. They can tell you that medically speaking everything should be healed, but at the end of the day it really came down to how I was feeling, how I was feeling in the gym and things like that."

Hinchcliffe was finally cleared to resume racing last week, and took part in Monday's post-season test at the 14-turn, 4.048-mile Road America, which has been confirmed as returning to the series schedule in 2016 for the first time since 2007.

"This track is unreal. It's my favourite one in the country," said Hinchcliffe as he warmed up for the session with some skipping practice to prove that there were no lingering effects from his injury. "To get to come back here and throttle an IndyCar around this place is awesome."

Also in action at the track on Monday were Sebastien Bourdais (KVSH Racing), Tristan Vautier (Dale Coyne Racing) and Marco Andretti. Ten drivers had also turned laps on the Road America course the previous week on September 22.

Also present this week was Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport), who was testing new components for Honda's 2016 road/street course and short oval aerodynamic bodywork package.

"It's awesome to see him back in his car, in his natural environment and what he loves to do, it's great," said Hunter-Reay of the sight of Hinchcliffe back in the #5 at long last, and immediately back up to speed. "We just came off a full season of running and he's right there with us. I didn't expect anything less out of him, but it's cool to see that. He's got a lot of heart."

Hinchcliffe admitted to having some anxiety at the start, like the first day back at school.

"I did a little bit," Hinchcliffe admitted. "But then I looked down and checked my shoes and remembered that the right one is go and the left one is stop, and then everything was fine."

Any questions about Hinchcliffe's thirst for returning to motorsport were quickly answered when he called in over the team radio on his initial laps and declared: "I am never coming in. Ever."