|England's Mike Conway scoots out of the pits at the Honda Toronto Indy. (Jack Boland/QMI AGENCY)
The British are famous for “keeping a stiff upper lip.”
Which means, showing fortitude in the face of adversity.
Mike Conway, a native of Bromley, England, is certainly living up to that supposed virtue of the tea and crumpets set.
Conway is having a breakout season on the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series despite having to contend with some rather major demons, most notably his horrific crash at the 2010 Indianapolis 500.
In the final lap of that storied race, Conway was moving inside of Ryan Hunter-Reay when their tires became entangled and Conway’s Dallara-Honda was launched airborne. His vehicle flipped in the air, crashed into a barrier and fence and then basically disintegrated.
Conway suffered multiple fractures to his lower left leg and a compression fracture to his T3 vertebrae, which required surgery ... major injuries for sure, but given the extreme violence of the crash, he was fortunate that the injuries weren’t even more severe.
After surgery Conway was fitted with a neck brace and then he returned to the U.K. where he underwent extensive rehabilitation at Pro Performance, which focussed on key muscle groups through a range of cardio and functional exercises. Seven weeks after the crash, Conway was back in the cockpit of a racing simulator, and on April 17 he recorded his first Indy Car win, at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Conway then posted a sixth-place finish at the next stop in São Paulo and currently sits in 14th in the IZOD IndyCar drivers standings. That position would likely be even higher if not for another set back at the Iowa Corn Indy 240 on June 25 when he was sent into the wall by fellow driver Ana Beatriz.
But again, the Andretti Autosport driver has rebounded with a vengeance. During Saturday’s qualifying for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto — the first race since Iowa — Conway finished an impressive fourth and will start Sunday’s race at Exhibition Place in the second row — giving him a good chance of winning his second career Indy, and moving up further in the points board.
Conway said that he has used last year’s crash as a learning experience.
“I think I’m a better driver after it,” he said. “It was a learning curve and I feel stronger this year and feel good about the whole season. That’s just part of history now.”
That may be, but the 27-year-old driver still has aches and pains to remind him of the crash and has to do a lot more work away from the car to maintain optimal physical condition than he did before.
“There’s a lot of little different things I do,” he said. “But it’s just something I’ve got to live with really, and it will get better as time goes on. But I can pretty much do what I want at the moment. I just have to be careful. I obviously have to keep on top of my body a lot more now — making sure everything’s in the right place and straight and symmetrical, because it can get thrown out a little easier with one leg not being as strong as the other one.
“So, yeah, you’ve got to keep on top of it. As long you do that, then you have no issues,” he added. “But, if you forget to do it, in a week or two, you’ll be regretting it.”
Conway posted a best qualifying time of 59.9326 seconds, to finish behind defending Honda Indy Toronto champion Will Power of Toowoomba, Australia, Scott Dixon of Auckland New Zealand and two-time Toronto winner Dario Franchitti.