Racing Forward

11/3/2015

Version 12.3

Lance Smith and Carolyn Bosley of Vermont SportsCar Don’t Rest on Their Laurels

Lance Smith, owner of Vermont SportsCar (VSC), is giving me the nickel tour of the company’s headquarters when I first spot the trophy pile. Smith leads me through the warren of large, confusingly interconnected work areas that hold the company’s various offices and shops. As a result of continuous growth and a steady stream of victories over their 25-year history, VSC is slowly taking over the industrial building they call home. Expansion is ongoing. The staff work out of boxes. A half-painted racing stripe adorns the walls. And there, casually arrayed on the floor next to an almost empty display case, lie a considerable number of some of the world’s most coveted racing trophies, including all eight of the Rally America National Championship trophies since 2006, SCCA ProRally trophies going back more than 25 years, X Games Rally medals, a global rallycross victory trophy, and dozens – maybe hundreds – of individual race trophies. Each award represents the culmination of countless hours of sweat and sacrifice, handed out after a hard-won victory on a champagne-soaked podium before a jubilant crowd. Most people go their whole lives without ever holding a winning trophy inscribed with their name, but here there are dozens of them, crowded into a corner of the floor. It’s a strange sight, and I can’t stop thinking about it as Smith escorts me deeper into the heart of VSC.

Good Problem to Have

That ungainly pile of awards continues to grow, in part, because Subaru Rally Team USA (SRT USA) driver David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew are five-time Rally America National Champions. With Higgins and Drew acing the first seven of eight rounds this year, rally fans have started to think about the possibility of a perfect season for SRT USA. It’s hard to overstate the rarity of that level of accomplishment. The only driver in the United States to finish with a perfect season is, appropriately enough, rally legend and current SRT USA Team Manager John Buffum, who did it in 1987. With Travis Pastrana, winner of four previous Rally America National Championships, back with the team, that trophy pile is just going to get larger.

Photo: Lars Gange | subaru.com/rally
 

Starting Young

In addition to running team operations and managing VSC, Smith attends every single race all year long for both Rally America and the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship. It’s a season that runs from January through November, and includes X Games. He’s on a two-day layover at home between events and trying to cram an entire week of work into a few days, so he looks a little tired. Otherwise, he’s amazingly unchanged since I last saw him in 2006. While we wait for his wife, Carolyn Bosley, to join us, Smith takes a rare minute to look back on his own career. Smith’s professional experience started in his teens when he went to work for Tivvy Shenton building cars with John Buffum. By 1988, Lance and his brother Colin were building their own cars, and Lance co-drove many of them through the ’90s. 

Photo: Ben Haulenbeek | subaru.com/rally  

Partnering with Subaru

In 2001, VSC’s privateer rally successes led to their first sponsorship deal with Subaru of America, Inc. By 2005, Subaru was their official sponsor, and the following year, Vermont SportsCar and Subaru of America created Subaru Rally Team USA, completely operated by VSC. If Smith’s enthusiasm for rally has only grown with time, he is absolutely on fire for Subaru motorsport. Bosley’s presence might have had something to do with that, but, like Smith, she has rally experience.

Photo: (Left & Bottom Right) Lars Gange | subaru.com/rally
(Top Right) Photo: David Traver Sdolphus

Fueling Each Other

As if on cue, Smith is happily interrupted in his reminiscence as Bosley arrives. It’s no exaggeration to say that Bosley has racing in her blood. Her father and brother are both vehicle enthusiasts – she even had two aunts who were on a dirt-track team called “The Powder Puff Girls,” so she grew up immersed in car culture. The rally bug eventually bit hard in 1989 when she saw Buffum race. “It just sucked me right in,” she recalls. “I had never even heard of rally before. We Vermonters tend to be circle-track people.” Bosley made her motorsports debut in a VSC-prepared car at the 1999 Ski Sawmill Rally with Smith co-driving – the first time the two ever raced a vehicle together. Bosley spent the next six years or so co-driving with John Bottoms and others, including competing in X Games 13 with Colin McRae, where McRae rolled the car at the finish, stranding them on a barrier. At X Games 14, Bosley ran her final race as a last-minute substitute for Travis Pastrana’s co-driver Christian Edstrom. Bosley gamely taped herself into Edstrom’s billowing racing suit and rose to the challenge, urging Pastrana to go ever faster, and together they took the gold. Following that victory, a bad wreck in Maine with Bottoms, and having a young son growing up led Bosley to decide her co-driving career was over – at least for now.

Accompanied by Smith and Bosley, I continue my tour, leaving the past behind for the moment to see where VSC creates their future. 

Cutting-Edge Everything

In the shop, Smith shows off a new engine dyno room, separate engine and transmission assembly rooms, final prep areas, an entire room of wheels and tires, the mold-making department, a chassis jig, a
brand-new hauler being outfitted, and their pride and joy, a new 3D printer. And there’s more, like their parts room with an inventory of over 100,000 pieces – enough to build 10 WRX STI rally cars. Vermont SportsCar fairly crackles with energy, the vibe more reminiscent of an ambitious start-up than that of a company that’s been around for a quarter of a century.

Photo: David Traver Adolphus

Just Getting Started

As we wind up my tour, I think again of that waiting trophy case with the jumble of awards piled high in front of it. Finally, I get it: This is a team that would rather look ahead to the next challenge than waste a minute arranging and displaying yesterday’s trophies. That mindset starts at the top, with two passionate leaders who keep their eyes firmly fixed on the future. As Smith says, “The door is just cracking open.”