The BTCC Team That Smuggled Drugs
The story of Vic Lee Motorsport is one of motorsport's best...
It's no secret that motorsport, at all levels, is ruinously expensive. However, some teams resort to lucrative ways of earning money. Whether it's an outlandish sponsorship deal, or running drugs... Yes, that's right. Vic Lee Motorsport, the team that took Tim Harvey to a BTCC title, decided the best way to earn some money on the side, was to run drugs from the UK to the Netherlands. So how did they do this, and how were they caught?
The owner of VLM, Vic Lee
The details of how Vic Lee was caught was fairly simple, so this shouldn't take to long. In case you don't know, drugs in the UK are illegal, but in the Netherlands they are a bit more lenient on these rules. So Vic Lee would buy drugs cheaply in the Netherlands then smuggle them back into the UK where they would sell for very large sums of money. This sounds relatively simple, but the operation that Vic Lee was running roped in may more people than you would expect.
In order to keep his side business under wraps, Lee hid the drugs in the team's transporter when they would return from the Zandvoort circuit in the Netherlands to "test" (I use the quotation marks, because the teams didn't really need to test there but Vic had to sell his snow, so here we are). Once the transporter had landed at Zandvoort Vic Lee would waltz off and buy himself some cocaine to stuff into his transporter ready to be sold in the UK.
So how did the British authorities cotton on to Vic's plan, and eventually find him? Well, there are 2 main reasons, 1: Why was a team that only raced on British tracks making the much longer journey of going to the Netherlands to test. And 2: Why were they going so frequently. With the constabulary's suspicions raised, they decided to do a random check on the VLM team transporter as they returned from yet another test/dodgy shopping spree. To the surprise of the rest of the team, the authorities found 40 Kg of cocaine with a street value of £6 million.
Once Lee was caught and sentenced for 12 years in prison, the team that was once the darling of BTCC fans was liquidated and sold off to two people. One of the teams' drivers Ray Bellm, and Steve Neal. The team was then rebranded as Team Dynamics, which is now Honda's factory team in the BTCC as of today. Despite, the rebrand, the team still continued to do well in the BTCC. They even got Matt Neal the first Privateer win in the Super Touring era in a red Nissan Primera.
The Nissan Primera that won Team Dynamics the £250,000 prize for the first independent to win a race.
You think that would be the end of Vic Lee's criminal excursions, but no. Following his release on parole in 1998, he was found with £1.7 million worth of noise sweeties in the boot of his personal BMW M3. Another 12 year sentence was handed to Lee, which he didn't do all of (only 5 years). At the point of his second imprisonment, Vic Lee had started a new team called Vic Lee Racing. This new team had factory backing from Peugeot and was now without their team principal.
Once he completed 5 years of his 12 year sentence, he was released and began work at seat manufacture Corbeau, despite people calling for him not to due to his past.
The Vic Lee Racing Peugeot
So there it is, the story of the BTCC team that, thanks to their idiotic team principal, was smuggling drugs into the UK. Thankfully, this hasn't been done in motorsport since. Instead we just ended up with multi-million pound sponsorship deals like Rich Energy...