Mike Conway cut a frustrated figure after his IndyCar Series return was ended by a first lap shunt in Sunday's season-opener in St. Petersburg.

After ten months on the sidelines following his horrific 220mph Indianapolis 500 accident last year, the Andretti Autosport driver was eager to race and seemed to be in contention for a podium before disaster struck as early as the opening lap.

Despite only returning to the cockpit earlier this month, the 27-year-old turned heads by finishing inside the top five in all practice and qualifying sessions at the Florida circuit. Starting from fourth on the grid, it appeared a podium finish was a realistic target.

However, his first race since the Indy 500 crash lasted less than a minute after Conway became a victim of a multiple car pile-up at the first corner. An ambitious move by Helio Castroneves pitched team-mate Marco Andretti into a roll, and his car tagged Conway, damaging the rear suspension and forcing him into retirement. Penske's Ryan Briscoe and Chip Ganassi's Scott Dixon were similarly caught up in the incident.

"It's hugely disappointing to be taken out of the race at the first corner through no fault of my own," lamented the aggrieved British star. "We had been strong all weekend and there was a real chance of victory, which makes the situation even more frustrating.

"All we can do now is take the positives from the weekend - our competitive pace and the fantastic work that all the guys have done at Andretti Autosport - and look ahead to the race in two weeks' time."

The IndyCar Series continues with a trip to Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on 10 April.

by Tom Howard



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