History Made as Vermont SportsCar Takes Two Wins In One Day
Saturday March 18 2023 will forever be remembered as a historic day for Vermont SportsCar, as it became the first organization in the US to win major rally and rallycross events on the same day, and the first to win with both combustion and electric vehicles on the same day.
While Brandon Semenuk was claiming victory at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood in Missouri for the Vermont SportsCar-led Subaru Motorsports USA stage rally team, 1,700 miles away at the other end of Route 66, Travis Pastrana was also atop of the podium for Vermont SportsCar’s own rallycross team in Nitro Rallycross’ all-electric group E category.
Pastrana’s win in the second Nitro RX final of the weekend – which also happened to be the 99th US-sanctioned rallycross round, the century mark being hit a day later – was a dominant affair: he topped qualifying and won his opening heat before gapping the field in the final to take an unchallenged third victory of the season.
On the other side of the country, Semenuk had a more hotly contested race, trading stage times with Barry McKenna in a nail-biting contest. They went into the final stage with eight stage wins apiece, and while McKenna broke the deadlock in the final stage, Semenuk prevailed overall – but only by 6.8 seconds.
Vermont SportsCar founder Lance Smith couldn’t be in two places at once, so opted to head to California for the final weekend for the 2022-23 Nitro Rallycross season. But he kept an eager eye on his team’s progress at both events and admitted he was “absolutely” nervous watching the intense rally fight between Semenuk and McKenna.
“It was surreal! We were focused on rallycross in California and our other team was racing in Missouri, and it’s a very tough championship,” he said. “We were up against Barry McKenna, very good competition out there. We were all watching that race on our phones…it was really exciting, and then to come away with a win here… We had FaceTime, between the service trucks and everybody was cheering, it was good fun.”
Pastrana’s win was his third of the season, and while he may not have taken the rallycross championship that he did in 2021 with the Subaru-backed combustion rallycross effort, he did end the year with the equal highest number of wins, and that’s something Smith is tremendously proud of, especially since it was VSC’s first-ever foray into all-electric motorsport.
“We had to learn about electric cars and what we’re gonna do in the future. So we’re investing in that knowledge,” he said. “This is the formative year of this championship, it’s the inaugural year of Nitro Rallycross with electric cars, so we’re all learning and I think the goal for the series has been achieved,” Smith added. “We’re showing the world for the first time what it looks like to have that exciting EV racing. We did it, and now we’d have to do it better again next year.”
Looking ahead to next season, VSC is aiming to expand its Nitro Rallycross presence to four cars, while an all-new Subaru WRX will debut on the rally stages later in 2023, a car that could be made available for other teams further down the line.
“We’re going to try to grow that base as well,” he revealed. “VSC is going to come up with a car that’s less expensive to run so we can get people into the sport. We’re right at the top tier and not everybody can play there.”
“We have to make those cars and parts available in the US, at volume, to capitalize on the volume price of Rally2 cars selling around the world. They can’t survive in just one country, that’s what we’re proving in the US.
“We’ve known for many years that first off, the country’s too big, it’s too expensive to drive all around by a privateer, but if we could get the cars cheaper more people will do that. More people will say, ‘okay, now I have the budget’. It’s gonna take a couple of years, but we’ll get there.”