Photo: Lars Gange | rally.subaru.com
Shaun Jacobs works with Subaru Rally Team USA (SRT USA). He’s the lead technician for the #75 WRX STI in which David Higgins/Craig Drew compete. As the number-one technician for the car, he works with the head engineer and is responsible for maintaining the car after an event. “We go through the car, look at anything that’s happened during the event, write a job list, order the parts, and get the work done,” he said. “It’s hands on the car with a little bit of paperwork.”
Because of the addition of the three rallycross cars to the Subaru stable at Vermont SportsCar, Jacobs does most of the work on #75. His involvement in the rallycross cars depends on how they fare in their events.
At a rally event, Jacobs manages the other three techs who work on the car. His job is to see that the car is 100-percent ready to start the event and then to perform planned and necessary maintenance on the car at service. There’s more, as Jacobs explained: “If there’s damage on the car, we assess the damage quickly, then get it fixed and out on time. Sometimes there’s 15 minutes; sometimes there’s an hour.”
Lightning-fast gearbox and differential changes are normal for a rally team. “I have to make those split-second decisions on what we can get done in 30 minutes so we don’t get out of service late,” stated Jacobs, “and we make sure the car is safe.”
Jacobs was in culinary school at Paul Smith’s College and needed a summer job. He was interested in getting into rallying. A high-school friend who worked for Vermont SportsCar introduced him to Lance Smith, the owner. “That was May of 1998. I ran errands, and went to events, and changed tires. I didn’t really do much the first year or two because I was still in school.”
Jacobs finished culinary school, worked in a Western resort for a while, then returned to Vermont. He worked for Vermont SportsCar on the side. Jacobs recalled, “The company was very small back then – five people. I kind of grew with the company, and as it got busier, Lance asked me to work full time.” During slow times in the company’s history, Jacobs worked for a couple of other race shops.
Jacobs never went to school to learn mechanics, but learned his skills “… by reading books and working with people who are patient to teach me. I never thought I’d go as far with it as I did.”
What does Jacobs like about his job? He explained, “I have a real passion for rallying. For some reason, it grabs my heart. I love being around the cars and the people and traveling to the different events. You’re not at a race track for a whole weekend. You get to move around a lot.
“Some of the places we go testing are just unbelievable. When we were doing the Production World Rally Championship, we tested in Argentina. The test road was 15 kilometers up this goat path, and we had to drive everything up there. When we got up to the top, we said, ‘Wow. This is nice.’ Then the liaison for STi in Group N came over and said, ‘OK. Lunch is ready. Walk over the hill.’ And there was this house with a barbecue grill that was 15 feet long and full of food.
“You’re always out seeing something different. It’s just great. I love it.”
Jacobs’ advice for someone who wants to work in motorsports: “I think it’s important to go to school for it. I got very lucky – right place, right time, knew Lance. The company grew and I grew with it. That’s rare.
“You’ve got to find someone who will give you a chance, and you’ve got to work hard. The hours are very long. You’re away from home a lot, so it’s hard on family life. But you get so many great life experiences from it. I have no regrets doing it.”