The 1990s BMW Touring Car Team That Got Busted Smuggling Cocaine

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Vic Lee Motorsport was the most infamous teams in the British Touring Car Championship in the early 1990s. But Vic Lee himself had a little problem: sharing room with the race cars in his team’s haulers was a whole lot of cocaine. What’s poetic is what tipped off the authorities: the team’s oddly international testing schedule.

These race cars still hold a fond place in enthusiast’s memory as they were closely based on E36-generation 3 Series road cars, lightened, hardened, but still somewhat attainable. Moreover, they were profoundly successful. Vic Lee Motorsport claimed two British Touring Car Championship titles, right in the golden years of the legendarily competitive series. VL won in 1991 and in 1992, following a controversial last lap of the last race. It produced one of the BTCC’s most infamous crashes and onboard screenshots:


Authorities noted that the team was testing at Zandvoort in Holland just a bit too often and became suspicious. And lo and behold, British customs officers intercepted a Vic Lee Racing hauler carrying 40 kilograms of cocaine in addition to one of the most successful race cars the BTCC saw, as The Herald reported at the time.

A look at the then-new 1993 Vic Lee Motorsports BMW 318is touring car on Sky Sports with driver Tim Harvey.

The seizure was part of a months-long effort called Operation Bounce. That accounted for £6 million in nose candy back in 1993, as the Sunday Mercury reported after Lee made it out of jail. For the second time.


Lee’s two-time BTCC winning team Vic Lee Motorsports was liquidated after Lee was sentenced to 12 years in prison for smuggling the cocaine in team transporters. The old VLM team went on to form what is now called Team Dynamics, which fields Honda’s factory entry in the BTCC today.

But there’s more.

After getting released in 1998 on parole, Lee got busted for the same exact offense—but only £1.7 million worth of coke this time—in 2005. The drugs were found in the trunk of his personal BMW M3. Again, he was sentenced for 12 years, but he was released on parole after serving only five years.


By then he had a taken over a new team, which he renamed Vic Lee Racing, with support from Peugeot.

Lee finally fell into a more legally-friendly line of work as the managing director of seat maker Corbeau despite some calls for him not to be employed there because of his past, as noted by the Sunday Mercury. Hopefully this time he learned that some pursuits (particularly those that involve smuggling illegal substances) aren’t worth picking back up to try again.