Reece Ushijima stunned everyone to finish Free Practice over a second clear of his closest rival at Spa-Francorchamps. The Van Amersfoort Racing driver believes that highlight performances have been a long time coming but is fully aware the important job comes later in Qualifying.

Ushijima has enjoyed a few highs already this season, including a podium finish in the Silverstone Sprint Race, yet believes that there’s even more to come this season after the amount of work that has gone into VAR’s maiden campaign in the Championship.

“I don’t think anything’s really changed over the year, we’ve just kept working hard and I know people working on my car and working within the team are still working hard even when I’m away to try and improve. That’s all I can ask for, because I give my all and I feel I have a team that supports me in that. We’re finally reaping the benefits of the efforts we’re putting in. I still need to win to prove that but there’s still three rounds to go.”

Winning will become a lot easier if Ushijima can put together a similar lap in Qualifying later on Friday. The VAR driver ended Practice 1.016s clear of next-best Oliver Goethe, another driver with previous experience around Spa.

READ MORE: PRACTICE: Ushijima in class of one during Spa Practice session

After his stunning effort in Practice, Ushijima was keeping both feet firmly planted on the ground. He said that translating the strong pace into a positive Qualifying performance would be vital if the team is to take anything away from this weekend.

“I’m feeling good, but as much as a positive it is, it’s still Practice, I have a job to do still later today. Now that I have a little bit more confidence, this is going to be a little bit easier than before. It’s good steps forward.

“Qualifying will be the key, once I get that done, I think I can move forward in both races.”

Like the Hungaroring, Spa-Francorchamps is one of the circuits on the 2022 F3 calendar that Ushijima has prior experience around. Prior to the summer break, the VAR driver was fighting for a top five in Qualifying in Budapest before his laptime was deleted for exceeding track limits.

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So far this weekend, Ushijima believes that his prior experience around Spa has been advantageous to him and the team, and a strong lap is well within his reach if he can keep mistakes to a minimum.

“100 percent it helps. I did a test in Hungary before racing there and it made me more experienced around the track. Going into Quali, just having a year’s more worth of experience is a big benefit.

“To be honest, I knew it was going to be a great lap coming out of Turn 1 because it was the first time I didn’t mess it up! But I came out of Turn 9 and I saw myself on TV and thought I must’ve been doing something right. I didn’t know how much I was up but not everyone went with new tyres. It’s still a benefit to me to know I can do the time, but I still need to do the time again later on.”

READ MORE: Celebrating his Japanese roots: The story behind Reece Ushijima’s helmet design

Despite the pressure of wanting to translate his team’s efforts into a result that he will feel they deserve, Ushijima is remaining relatively calm, and even joked about how his team had been surprised after the Practice session.

If he can replicate his lap again then he may well claim a maiden Formula 3 pole position, but whatever Spa holds in store for him and the rest of the grid, he’s confident that it could finally be his day.

“You dream about it a lot, being told over the radio but my engineer never told me, so I’m going to have a go at him later. Maiden pole is a big step. I feel confident in my abilities in the dry and wet nowadays. I think I’ve proven that I’m not too bad in the rain in Hungary, I’ve just got to prove it again.”