In the past years, the rallycross scene in United States of America has been up and down recently IMG decided to cancel their Americas Rallycross Championship and before that, the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship was also cancelled. So the rallycross drivers have now been looking elsewhere to race and hoping to see a new championship on home soil.
Upcoming American young talent Lane Vacala used to race in the ARX2 category before the series was cancelled, The Checkered Flag took the opportunity to interview Vacala in our new ‘The Road To Glory’ mini-series, where you can read about the upcoming rallycross talents and their stories.
Vacala started his racing career in karting back in 2011 at the age of 15 with an indoor karting league at the Chicago Indoor Karting, after that he competed with outdoor in a club series hosted at Michiana Raceway Park in Indiana and followed up with huge career success at an early age by claiming several series titles in 2014.
“My racing background is in Karting which began in 2011 at age 15. It was then that I began to race at an indoor karting league at Chicago Indoor Racing.” Vacala told The Checkered Flag.
“After competing there for a year, I joined their outdoor karting team who competed in a club series at Michiana Raceway Park in Indiana. Unfortunately after 1 season the CIR team was dismantled, leaving my father and I to work on the karts and race on our own for the 2013 season. In 2014, I won the great lakes sprint race series in the rotax category.”
“I also won the MRP club series and was awarded a chance to represent MRP at the US Rotax Grand Nationals in Utah later that year. This was my first national karting race and after that I was hooked. In 2015 I raced the following season with MRP traveling to different national races all over the country.”
After his success in amateur-level Karting, he was offered the chance to join a factory based team and start to race on international events held in Canada and France.
“In 2016 I left the MRP team and began racing for a local Texas based team in some national events but primarily competing in the Texas Prokart series finishing 2nd in a very close points battle. In 2017 I signed with the factory Compkart J3 Competition Team based out of Erie, Pennsylvania. I raced 3 years with them driving to many top 10 finishes. Over those years we raced in multiple national series including international races in Canada and France.” Vacala continued.
After competing in the Karting, Vacala got in contact with the Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice who is working for the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Team that operates both an IndyCar and rallycross team. Vacala was invited to a rallycross test with the team and there was no doubt to take it.
“My road to rallycross started in early 2019 when I was introduced to Buddy Rice through my karting team. Buddy Rice is an Indy 500 winner and works with the Dreyer & Reinbold Indycar and Rallycross teams. Upon meeting, he invited me to partake in a 2-day test in the rally-car with the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team in Indianapolis.”
“Before the test I had never raced anything but karts. So it took me a few sessions to adjust to shifting and the way the cars handled. It was pouring rain the first day so I only got 2 sessions in before the team called it for the day.”
During the Supercar Lites tests, Vacala experienced how different the rallycross conditions can be, and showed the team his potential. He was given the opportunity to sign for the team for the upcoming ARX races last season.
“I remember both of the sessions having the windows fogging up while on track and the car hydroplaning at times. What a welcome to the sport that was. The second day was in much better conditions and I was able to pick up the pace and be only a few tenths off of the others drivers who had much more experience than me. After that I was given the opportunity to sign with the team to race later in the year.
Vacala told TCF he followed rallycross in USA before through live broadcasting, watching the X Games rallycross races that were held before an actual championship was created, it’s from there he knew about rallycross and it has always been his favourite event to watch.
“Rallycross was an choice for me because I remember growing up and watching it on TV during the X Games and just being mesmerized. It was so unique compared to any other forms of racing in the sense that they raced rain or shine and it combined pavement, dirt, and jumping all in one.” Vacala explained.
“The racing was always action packed and was my favorite event to watch. So when Dennis Reinbold; the owner of Dreyer & Reinbold gave me an opportunity to sign with them after the test. It was a dream come true and obvious decision to help advance my career in racing.“
Vacala hasn’t done so much racing in the rallycross, he managed to compete in three races with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in the ARX2 before the series was cancelled. After that he signed a deal with the Swedish RX2 International Series team STS RX to compete at Lohéac in France where he made his debut and then later took part in the season-finale at Cape Town in South Africa.
“I’m still fairly new to the Rallycross scene but it has been nothing short of an amazing experience so far. Midway through 2019 I signed with the Dreyer & Reinbold team to compete in the American Rallycross series.” Vacala said.
“I also signed with the STS RX team based out of Sweden to compete in the RX2 category with the FIA World Rallycross Series. I competed in 3 rounds with DRR in Trois- Rivieras Canada, Austin Texas, and Lexington Ohio. I also competed in 2 rounds with STS RX in Loheac, France and Capetown, South Africa.”
Vacala explained about his experience with the Supercar Lites machinery, as stepping up from karting to a four-wheel-drive forced him in to learning new things as he hadn’t done any loose surface racing before that but said the car is quite similar to his rear-wheel-drive legends car.
“Coming from a karting background. The Lites car was a whole different discipline for me to get used to. I wasn’t used to the all wheel drive, being strapped into a car, sequential shifting or having any suspension. That all took some time to feel out and get comfortable with.” Vacala explained.
“I do love how the lites cars launch off the line and can be thrown around while going door to door with the competition. The all wheel drive on the dirt was probably the hardest adjustment for me coming from an all pavement background. At the conclusion of the 2019 rallycross season. I had the opportunity to race a legends car to keep my driving skills sharp.”
“While the legends car is not all wheel drive, there is still similarities between them. The legends cars are very light with a lot of power. Which just like in a lites car, it forces you to be up on the wheel and constantly needing to drive on the limit to be fast. I don’t have any negatives to say about the lites car. So far it’s been a good experience and I hope to keep it that way.”
TCF asked Vacala what his biggest highlights of rallycross career is and he said; “The biggest highlight for me was getting a heat win on my first weekend racing in Canada on just the second day of competition. Prior to the race weekend in Canada I had only driven the rally-car one other time.”
“That being the initial test with Dreyer & Reinbold. So it was pretty cool to get that first one under my belt. After that, I would say traveling over to France and South Africa to race in the FIA World Rallycross Series within the RX2 Category.”
Vacala continued with explaining about his favourite track and GP3R in Canada was his choice, “My favorite track so far would have to be Trois- Rivieres in Canada. It’s a great track with long straightaways and technical gravel sections making it super fun to drive and very unforgiving if you make a mistake. Adding to that, the atmosphere from the town and fans during the races as well as the pre- race festivities made it very memorable for me.”
TCF also asked Vacala how he has handled lockdown so far due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He told us that everything has been fine and he is happy to could spend some time with his family and relax after the racing but he is also keen to be back out again soon.
“During the lockdown I spent a lot of time with family and focused on my overall health and fitness. After always being on the road racing it was a nice change of pace to be home for a while. Although after a week of it I was
ready to get back out on track.”
“Other than that I spent time watching the Indycar sim races as well as the World Rallycross sim races. It was nice to see competition and some form of racing during the lockdown even if it was virtual. Luckily in recent weeks I have been able to get behind the wheel of a 700hp Dodge hellcat and an F4 car. I’m hoping things can fully get back to normal soon, whatever that may look like, so we can get back racing for real.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic came, Vacala had plans to enter the RallyX Nordic series in the Supercar Lites category and some more RX2 International Series. He will stick to his plans when the racing restarts and will continue with racing in rallycross with hopes of driving a Supercar in the near future.
“Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, I had plans to run some races in the Nordic RX Series and World RX Series. I still plan on racing in both series. We just have to see what happens going forward and make sure it doesn’t conflict with anything else we already have planned for later in the year.”
“Right now I am focusing on a career in rallycross with hopes of eventually progressing into the Supercar.”
TCF asked Vacala about his thoughts for the future of rallycross in U.S.A and we recieved a short promising answer; “I think the future is very bright for rallycross in the USA. Stay tuned.”
A final message for his fans and our wonderful readers? “Thank you to The Checkered Flag for the write up and to everyone who took the time to read it. I’d also like to thank my mom and dad as well as all of my sponsors for making this possible. If you’d like to follow more of my racing journey, you can do so by following my instagram account @LaneVacala. Thank you for your support and I hope to be seeing you all at a track in the near.“