When he was dropped by Conquest Racing just a handful of races into his IndyCar Series career, Franck Perera refused to be bowed. Instead, he took a step back - literally - and has been rewarded for his perseverence ahead of this weekend's season finale.
Expecting to end his year with a final outing in the supporting Firestone Indy Lights series, Perera will instead find himself at the wheel of a second AJ Foyt Enterprises entry in the senior competition, as the team evaluates him for a possible full-time return in 2009.
The Frenchman, who turned his attention to the United States after a couple of seasons in GP2 failed to yield an F1 role, will campaign the #41 ABC Supply Co/AJ Foyt Racing Dallara-Honda at Chicagoland Raceway as team-mate to Foyt regular Darren Manning, completing a circle that began when he was picked up by Conquest Racing, initially for Champ Car and, when that series folded, for IndyCars.
Perera recorded finishes of 14th at Homestead-Miami and 20th at St Petersburg, as well as sixth in the Champ Car farewell on the streets of Long Beach, before being replaced by Jaime Camara but, determined to return to the top flight, almost immediately sourced a ride in the Lights series.
He joined the feeder series at Iowa in June and, having served notice of his pace - especially on road courses - by taking an early pole, has since gone on to rack up one win and two poles in nine starts, including 'reverse grid' double-header event.
Those performances, where he has renewed hostilities with former Atlantic Series rival Raphael Matos and taken the fight to Lights frontrunner Richard Antinucci, have now attracted the attention of the Foyt team, which is investigating the possibility of running a second full-time IRL entry next season.
"I would like to thank AJ Foyt and ABC Supply for giving me the chance to get back into an IndyCar Series car this weekend," Perera said of his surprise return, "It's a huge pleasure to work with a team like Foyt Racing with so much experience and such a big name."
Team director Larry Foyt brought the French driver to his father's attention as the team began the scouting process for a potential team-mate to Manning, and reckons that Perera could be a suitable candidate.
"At the beginning of the year, I noticed that Franck was one of the quickest among the transition team drivers to adapt to the Indy cars," Foyt Jr said, "He fared well on the oval at Homestead and qualified well at St Pete.
"We thought then that he was a talented driver and, as we're looking to become a two-car team next year, we thought he might be a good asset to our programme. We'll see how we get along with him this weekend."