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This week we caught up with Joel Johnson, former world champion and part owner of AKA Products for a Talk It Up Tuesday interview!
LiveRC: How have you been with everything going on lately in the world?
Joel Johnson: Tyler, the past few months have been interesting to say the least. Overall I’ve been good and very lucky to stay healthy and live somewhere that is not considered a COVID hot spot.
LRC: How is AKA products and are there any fun plans for the future?
JJ: AKA is doing well considering the circumstances. Racing in the US is bouncing back nicely and “the pause” gave us some time to really focus on new tire designs and look at other markets. So you might see some unexpected products from AKA in the near future.
LRC: What has it been like getting back to your favorite type of racing (1/8th scale on road)?
JJ: I have to say getting back to the track racing 1:8 on-road is really fun. We are very spoiled in So Cal to have such a world class facility at our door step. The Goodwine family have just done an amazing job creating an on-road racing Disneyland out there. I’ve always enjoyed 1:8 on-road due to the strategy and the flow you get into when you have a car that is doing all the right things. There is nothing better in my opinion.
LRC: How does it feel to be a world champion not only as a driver but as a company owner and what was it like being the winning tire brand for the last two 1/8th scale worlds back to back?
JJ: Being a WC both as a competitor and a company owner is a very satisfying feeling. Both take a team of people to accomplish and I’ve been very lucky throughout my R/C career to have teamed up with the right people to get the job done. One person who has always been a part is Gil Losi Jr. Very fun to take this ride with him. I will say it’s way more difficult to watch your driver lead the last few minutes of a WC main event than it is to be the driver leading the last few minutes of a main event. Now I know what Ernie Provetti from Trinity was going through all those years!
LRC: What was your favorite company to drive for back in the day, car, motor, tires, etc?
JJ: I’ve been very lucky in my career that I didn’t have to change teams/sponsors very often. Working with Trinity for basically my entire career really enabled me to accomplish what I did. Winning was everything to them and knowing that does put pressure on you, but then again you want that type of passion in your corner so they have to be a favorite. Kyosho has to be another favorite of mine. The company that took a chance on an on-road racer to win their first off road world title. The Suzuki family and everyone at Kyosho always treated me like a king. It’s an experience I will never forget and I still have such a good relationship with Kyohso to this day. Racing for Team Losi was also a great pleasure. I met the Losi’s in 1982 and really connected with them during the next few years. Working with Pops and Gil was always fun and still is. I really appreciated how Gil could take what I felt with the car and could return the handling I was looking for. Novak electronics was another favorite of mine. Bob and his family were just so nice to me and had great equipment over the years. There are many more, but these are the top and I have made such great friends from each of these partnerships that go on to this day.
LRC: What is your favorite AKA tread pattern?
JJ: My favorite Tread pattern is the Scribble. It’s just so different than anything and really is an out of the bag competitive indoor clay tire. It will be fun to see where Gil takes that design in the future.
LRC: Is there anyone you would like to thank?
JJ: I’d like to thank all the hobby shops and tracks that are hanging in there and weathering this COVID storm. It’s confusing and frustrating at best I’m sure. The racers are getting back to racing so I’m very thankful that the tracks and racers are finding a way to race again. Let’s just make sure we are racing in a manor to keep everyone healthy.
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