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Hi Jason, can you give us a little insight into how you started JConcepts and when?  

The name JConcepts was started for a drafting and design business that worked along with our family business Ruona Construction.   In 2003 the IFMAR World Championships were in Florida so I took that opportunity to start JConcepts as a radio control car business.  The Illuzion B4 body and BJ4 buggy were our first 2 products and they debuted at that World Championships. 

The B4 body was really finished a few months before that event so racing it at that event and qualifying 5th in the A-main final was extremely exciting. 

On top of the world - Drescher 7th / Cavalieri 1st / Maifield 3rd

The BJ4 was really a last minute decision.  About 3 weeks prior to the event I was talking to Brad about the race.  He said he was going to come out of racing retirement and run the event and wanted to build his own 4wd buggy based on the TC3 drive train.  He said he had not started on anything yet but was considering it.  Our buddy Jim Myers who is always joking around told Brad, you must be crazy because as a rule of thumb before bringing any new car to a World Championships you should at least be able to run it up and down the street in front of your house a couple times before you bring it to the Worlds.  
{Jim didn’t realize how accurate he was going to be}

I told Brad the only way it had a chance to be ready for the event is if we got together and modeled up the entire package.  If I remember correctly we got together about 2 weeks before the event and started laying out the design.  

We did about 16 straight hours of design work laying out the concepts.  I took the drawings and immediately got some of my friends in the industry to take a look at them.  Even though the schedule was extremely tight we took a chance and we got the parts started.  
At this point we were about 10 days away from the event and we didn’t have 1 part for the car yet but they were underway.  We had all our contacts ship the items when they were finished directly to Clearwater where the Worlds were being held.   We started building cars about 3 days before official practice started and believe me it took us the entire 3 days. 

The parts we designed came out extremely well.  We still had to do a lot of handwork to fit the rest of the buggy together and that took the majority of the time.   We missed the official check in and opening ceremonies because we were still building the cars.  I was getting a lot of phone calls from drivers at opening ceremonies, where are you?  When are we going to see this concoction?  Meanwhile Jim Myers was working a lot also.  Jim picked up and painted our prototype race bodies and delivered them to Clearwater for us.  About the time Jim delivered the painted prototype bodies, my car was built and ready for the body.  Jimmy and I cutout and mounted the first body and it looked great.  

At about 3:00am I took the BJ4 outside and ran it up and down the street a couple times as Jim had suggested weeks earlier.  Controlled practice started at 8:00 the next morning.   (now that's cutting it fine !)
The track was kind of wet in the morning and especially in the first round of controlled practice.  I think I was in one of the first 3 heats of controlled practice, I set the car down and it really was awesome the first time it hit the track.  I came off the drivers stand and Brad had this look on his face like, not only did it look good but I think it was the best car in your heat.  

The first ever BJ4x4 - before hitting the track.
Without the shell - parts aren't anodised.

We made a few setup changes in the pits as the track was changing and the bite was coming up.  I was able to qualify 12th overall as I ended up in the B-final.  Our only disappointment was that we couldn’t find an Associated front one-way unit.  Had we been able to get the front one-way unit I think I could have made the final.

At this point we really didn’t think we were going to try and take the car to production.  We were getting a lot of interest at the race and on  Drivers from all over were asking for it.  So, we decided to build the car for production.

What were you doing at the time and how hard was it to give that up and start your own company? 

I was working with our family business Ruona Construction doing drafting and design under the JConcepts name.  I also worked with my Dad building and managing various construction jobs. 

At this point I spend about 90% of my time on JConcepts and 10% on Ruona Construction.   The biggest thing I’ve had to give up is my free time, time with my family and girlfriend and the time I get to spend racing. 

Brad still maintains his engineering job in Clearwater and works as much with us as his schedule allows.  He also attends all the major events with us and wrenches on the BJ4’s.  If Brad is wrenching on your car, it is going to be right he doesn’t take any short cuts.

Yourself and Brad Reelfs are the main men at JConcepts, what are your typical days like, what are your main roles?  

I email and phone back and forth with Brad on a daily basis.  He spends his available weekends and free time with us working on various tasks and design work.

Jim Myers started working with me on a daily basis about 6 months ago.  It has been great with Jim on fulltime; he has added his experience in racing, dedication and comedy routine to our 7-day workweek.

My daily roles include:

Customer orders and relations
Computer product design
Hands-on product design
Vendor communication
Web development
Product production
Product packaging

We get a lot of help from our families and my girlfriend Allison is always right there to help.  I have a lot of appreciation to my friends and family.

JConcepts first product - the Illuzion B4 body

The BJ4x4 was a great success and the BJ4 Worlds seems even more popular despite there being more competition around now.  What do you put your success down to?   

I think number 1 is that both cars are good racecars.  They have been successful to the pro driver, intermediate driver and novice driver.  We also try to deliver the best customer service possible to our customers.  My goal is to help our customers become more informed and better outfitted so they can have better results which is ultimately what it is about.  

A lot of people don’t like saddle packs, particularly those who don’t race or race at club level. Did you ever consider an update that used the original cell configuration?  

We still sell the original BJ4.  We are planning another release of the original kit around August or September.  There are some customers that prefer the convenience of having the same battery packs for both 2wd and 4wd and they will have the opportunity to get the original car if they choose to. 

What process did you undertake to get to the final car, were you trying a lot of designs?  

We did a lot of testing and tuning at the Worlds Warmup last year.  We went into that race with the idea that we knew we had to get faster and the only way we were going to do that is if we did a lot of watching and testing on that track.  We got a lot of track time in Italy the Monday after the Warm-up event and we learned a lot.

How much testing did you put in with the finished design before the worlds in Italy?  

Since the timing between the Warm-up and actual Worlds were so close we basically got into the same situation we were in 2003 and had very little time to design and build the car.  We also had the U.S. ROAR Nationals in Connecticut 2 weeks before the worlds.  We built a prototype and stayed the day after the ROAR nationals and had Ryan Maifield test drive the car.  We were running quicker with the new car and we were excited about the Worlds.

The IFMAR World Championship title is a great selling point for the car, you must be very proud of the work you put in.

The track was so challenging and really nothing like what we run 1/10th electric on in the U.S.  It really was unreal, Ryan Maifield out dueled the 4wd master Masami to get the TQ.  In the finals, Ryan Maifield and Ryan Cavalieri were really impressive.  They had a great race in the 2nd A-final and Cavalieri got the win and wrapped up the title before the 3rd main.  It was very satisfying!

Ryan Maifield - TQ worlds 2005
Ryan Cavalieri - WINNER worlds 2005

Was there a lot of confidence going into the championships? 

I had a lot of confidence in the drivers we had running the car.  I don’t really think we were the favorites considering Hara had dominated the warm-up. I figured Masami and Neil Cragg were probably going to be the biggest challenge.  Neil had run at that track quite a bit and looked very comfortable with the surface.  Masami just scares everyone I think………:)
Is the original BJ4 car now being phased out in favour of the Worlds Edition? 

We are going to continue to support the original car and we have a new batch of them that we are planning to release in August or September. 

I do feel the Worlds Edition is a better handling car and has a lot more flexibility with gearing.  Considering the number of drivers starting to use the brushless systems that would be major plus for them.

Do you have any plans to produce more off road vehicles? A BJ2WD or BJTruck perhaps? 

We have a lot of bodies and accessories in our plans.  We hope to release a lot of them in the next few months and into the next year.  We also have some tricks up our sleeve but nothing we are revealing yet. 

I don’t think you’ll see a BJ2wd or truck anytime soon.  I’m happy with our relationship with Associated and I like the B4 and T4.  I started racing with Associated in 1992 and I really like to promote and race with their products.

Do you get to race much these days or has that been pushed to the side? 

My racing has been pushed to the side quite a bit.  I have made it to quite a few races this year but it is difficult to perform the way I want because there are a lot of responsibly before and during the race that interferes with practice and preparation. 

Once I’m racing I feel my driving is actually pretty good but at the highest level you can’t have distractions to your focus.   Worrying about others racing results is distracting at times.  

Gil Losi Jr. told me something one time and I didn’t realize how true it was until I was doing it.  He told me that racing your own car is so much harder to do than racing someone else’s because your always scared of making the car look bad or braking it in a big moment.  He is right, it is much harder.  :)

Thanks Jason for your time, and good luck in the future Jimmy   

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