Reece Ushijima has decided to call an early end to his USF Pro 2000 programme in the USA as he eyes a return to racing in Europe for 2024.
The American-Japanese driver left the Jay Howard Driver Development team ahead of last month’s round in Toronto, and is currently 11th in the standings with one second place and two fourth places the highlights of his 11 races.
He spoke to Formula Scout about what he described as a “really tough year” in USFP2000 and what he may race in next.
“It was really nice to go and race in my home country,” Ushijima said. “It was a big culture shock. I think the European and American motorsport environment is very, very different, but it definitely was a good learning experience for me to go race in America.
“You go race on legendary tracks like Sebring, you go on places like St. Petersburg. It was really, really cool and also to just get more experience on street tracks and different types of circumstances. And it was also good for me to know what the American culture was like because I never raced formula cars or anything like that over there because I grew up in Europe. So it was good for me to learn all that. But unfortunately, things didn’t really work out.”
“I have to say probably just getting the team together” was where he failed in what was needed to be successful. “It’s a very different way to Europe. I think the driver has a bit more reliance on trying to push everyone in America.
“And the tracks are just so different. Over here, we race on Formula 1 tracks; over there, some of the tracks aren’t maintained as well and everything like that. So it was difficult to get used to how difficult those tracks were. But at the same time, it was good for me to experience that.”
Ushijima highlighted “resilience” as the main gain from his time in USFP2000. “I had to kind of push through even when things weren’t working out for me. I just had to keep going, keep going, keep going. Obviously I had to pull out this year, but it was still just a great year for me to learn more as a driver as well.”
The 2024 plans are still undecided, but Ushijima is clear in his desire to return to the European scene.
“I’m still going around speaking to some of teams and everything. I’m definitely wanting to come back to Europe now that I’ve experienced what it’s like in America. I feel most at home over here. I’m trying to look around FIA Formula 3 [where he came 20th in 2022] and some sportscars stuff and see what’s available.
“I feel like I’ve got a bit of experience and also some unfinished business in F3 as well. I was supposed to be racing [there] this year and the budget got in the way. But if I can come back next year, then that would be great.”