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Interview with Joel Johnson

RCRacing.com had the opportunity to talk with local guy, Joel "Magic Johnson" turned "R/C Driver of the Century" about his recent honor, his career and the future.

Joel Johnson
Born: 1968
Occupation: Intranet developer  and R/C racer
HomeTown: San Jose, CA
Years Racing: 23
First RC Car: Jomac 1/12 .049 powered
Favorite Class: 1/12 On Road
Favorite Track: Ranch Pit Shop
Sponsors: Trinity, TRC, Novak, Airtronics, Team Losi

The Interview: 

RCRacing.com: First of all, I'd like to congratulate you on being named R/C Driver of the Century by RCCAR Magazine. That's got to be really exciting
for you. I'm sure you've told this story a thousand times, by now, but how did you get started in R/C Racing and when?

Joel: I started somewhere around the end of 1975.  My family owned a hobby shop and I finally begged enough to get an R/C car.

RCRacing.com: When did you win your first title and what was it?

Joel: My first National Title was 1/12 stock in 1981 at the ROAR nationals.  I was 13.  I won two that year.

RCRacing.com: What titles have you won over the years and how many of them?

Joel: Over the years I've won Two IFMAR world title in both 2wd Off Road 1987, and 1/10 On Road 1992.  I've also won 33 ROAR National Titles all in the On Road classes.  Add to that a couple of paved oval wins at large oval event and winning the Masters at Lake Whipporwill.

RCRacing.com: Thinking back, what big race was the most rewarding or memorable to you personally?

Joel: I think winning the 1992 1/10 On Road Worlds at the Ranch is probably my most satisfying win.  I loved that track, it was like a second home for me.  We also won with a prototype car (EV-10) and we really had to work at getting everything right.  I have to credit Jim Dieter with a great job of tuning that car and getting the most out of it.

RCRacing.com: This Question is from one of our viewers. Greg asks: You currently have 9 Triple Crown Wins under your belt, will you be attending the USTC to make it an even ten? Which three races will you be at if you decide to go for number 10? I think everyone would like to see you return to the Cleveland scene for the fastest of the fast at the US Indoor Champs.

Joel: Greg, I'll definitely be in Cleveland this year for the Indoor Champs, but I think that will be my only 4 cell race this year.  I might also attend the 4 cell Nats if my work schedule
permits.  4 cell racing is one of my favorites and I look forward to returning to the carpet over Thanksgiving.

RCRacing.com: What was your favorite event of all time that you attended?

Joel: Wow, this is a tough one.  I would have to say that my last trip to Lake Whipporwill for the Oval Masters was probably one of my favorites.  I can't say that one event really out shines the others but there are many that were great for different reasons.  I guess I pick The Whip as one of my favorites because of the great facility, the competition, and the whole scene.  It was the closest to being a "real" race feel that I've seen. I would also have to mention the last world championships in England.  That was probably the best run race I've
ever attended.  No detail was left to question.

RCRacing.com: There has been a lot of talk about spec tires at big races again lately. What is you opinion on the use of a spec tire and the effects on the hobby itself.

Joel: I think spec tire a large events are a necessity if we want this sport to continually grow. The "tire of the week" scenario which is playing out in both off road and on
road is not healthy for racing in the amateur classes.  The development of a spec tire program should be ROAR's top priority for 2000.  I'm sure that most people who buy there tires will be in full agreement.

RCRacing.com: Are there any particular people that you look up to or who had an impact on your racing career?

Joel: There is definitely a few people that have had a great effect on my R/C career.  My father is probably the the first to direct my R/C activities.  He gave me my first car and ran races in the parking lot of our hobby shop for years to help keep me going.  He taught me to be a gentleman first and a racer second, and it's worked out pretty well.
Ernie Provetti of Trinity has had a huge impact on my career in so many ways through promotion, always having top equipment, great leadership and great friendship. Gil Losi Jr. has been a great friend over the years and has taught me tons on why these cars do what they do.  Gary Kyes of Team Losi gave me my first sponsorship in R/C (when he was with MRP) and really taught me how to go racing and the do's and don'ts of driving.  Jim Dieter has also had great effects on my career because without some of his expert tuning, I would be a few championships down in my total count.

RCRacing.com: RC Racing can't be your only interest. What are some of the other things you do with your time? What do you do for a living?

Joel: Some of my other interests include mountain biking, Ducati's, computers and spending time with my wife Julie.

RCRacing.com: We local people know all about the club you and Pete run, RCCAR. Can you tell us some more about it for the people who are not familiar with your club?

Joel: Here in the Silicon Valley I head up a club called Radio Control Championship Auto Racers (RCCAR).  We are about 100 members strong and average around 150 entries per electric event and about 70 for the gas events.  This club is actually a continuation of the racing the used to take part outside my Dad's hobby shop.  The name has changed over the years but some of the people are the same.  We run on the first and third sundays of the month, gas on the first and electric on the third.  We have a great crew of members that volunteer their time to keep this a great club with great racing.  I'm really proud of what this club is about and it's success.  If you're ever in the San Francisco Bay Area... bring your car and come out a play.  Check RCRacing.com for all our highlights.

RCRacing.com: I hear rumors of a new Losi Touring Car or a upgrade kit for the Street Weapon. Can you confirm any of this?

Joel: I'm not going to deny that there is an update coming to the Losi car line up, but exactly what it will be I'll have to leave to your imagination for now.  The Street Weapon is still a
very competitive car but it is at the end of it's cycle so you can expect some new touring car stuff from Losi in the near future... it's gonna be cool, I can say that.

RCRacing.com: The Losi still seems to be one of the best RC Car kits on the market today. It's competitive, easy to drive and pretty durable. What are some of the other highlights about the car from your point of view.

Joel: I personally like that our setup doesn't really vary from track to track and that the drive train stays very clean.  Losi has put together a great package with the Street Weapon and I
think it's a great car for beginners and experts alike.

RCRacing.com: So what's next for the RC Driver of the Century?

Joel: I'm going to try and make it 10 Indoor Championships over this Thanksgiving and then wait and see what opportunities are waiting in 2000.

Thanks Joel for your time, and we wish you well in 2000!

Article Date: 01-Nov-99