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TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Eric Epp - PROTOform

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Main Photo: TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Eric Epp - PROTOform

By Mike Garrison
LiveRC.com 

Welcome to LiveRC's weekly column, "Talk-It-Up Tuesday!" Here we spend a little time talking with industry icons including racers, manufacturers, team managers, developers, promoters, and everyone in between! Sit back, relax, and go behind the scenes as we interview them all!


(Photo by Rugspin Graphix)

LiveRC: Welcome Eric back to Talk It Up Tuesday, we are always glad to have you. It has been an exciting year for PROTOform with a lot of new products, another IFMAR World Championship win, and the announcement of the 2019 1/8 On-Road Worlds being held in your backyard. Let’s start by talking about the newest PF products. Tell us a bit about the new D9 touring car body, and what makes it better than its predecessors?

Eric: The D9 came about from feedback from our team drivers who wanted an optional body to go along with the Type-S in certain conditions where they felt the Type-S was a bit too aggressive. In track conditions or certain layouts where you are trying to take out some edginess, or just need maximum rear grip, the D9 would be a go-to.

LiveRC: Is there still conditions and certain places you would recommend the Type S or MS7 body over the D9? 

Eric: The Type-S will still be our workhorse body that works in a lot of conditions since for the most part, touring car racers are always looking for maximum steering. The MS7 is a body for very specific conditions. It was developed for ultra-high grip spec racing where less downforce is needed, and a freer car is preferred.

LiveRC: How about the new Europa FWD body, can you give us any details on it prior to its release?

Eric: It’s one we’re really excited about, a body dedicated to up the up and coming front-wheel drive touring category, a first for our brand!

LiveRC: What made PROTOform decide to step into the FWD touring car scene?

Eric: FF racing doesn’t really exist in California (or USA for that matter) so we really relied on suggestions from our international drivers in Europe and Asia on this body. Our European Team Manager Max Machler would tell us he’d go to regional races with 30-40 FF cars signed up, and urged us to step into this class with our own contender.

LiveRC: When designing a body for an entirely new platform, how much time is spent from start to finish developing something like the Europa body?

Eric: The Europa is a special case for us. Whereas PROTOform bodies have almost exclusively been handmade by my father Dale Epp, the Europa was designed 100% in CAD and cut on a leading-edge 5-axis mill here at the PROTOform headquarters. 

LiveRC: Naoto Matsukura recently wrapped up another IFMAR World Championship win for you in 200mm Nitro Touring Car. How many World Championship wins is that for PROTOform?

Eric: That was number 25 for us (and counting!) And let me tell you, based on the current state of the body market in Nitro racing, it was certainly one of the most satisfying we’ve ever had.

LiveRC: What has been PROTOform’s most successful product in terms of race wins and results?

Eric: I think it has to be the LTC-R. It brought us 3 IFMAR Worlds and was the go-to body for almost 10 years in electric touring car. Too many other wins to list between ETS, ROAR, Reedy Race etc. It was only last year, with the transition to high-downforce bodies, that the LTC-R lost its grip as the king.

LiveRC: Too often one company will copy another other companies’ most successful products – particularly in the R/C body and tire market. If you see a PROTOform design or body copied by another company, what are your initial thoughts and response to that?

Eric: My initial thought is pure frustration. All the design work, R&D, and marketing materials you put into a design, only for it to be ripped off blatantly… You have no idea how many scathing social media posts I’ve drafted up only to delete them when cooler heads prevail. There was one instance earlier this year when a company even copied our press release word-for-word. I called that company out just based on their pure laziness.

Otherwise, when we see these copies it just motivates us even more to keep pushing, progressing, and innovating, to stay ahead of the copy brands and keep them chasing.

LiveRC: One thing that cannot be copied is your excitement for the 2019 IFMAR Worlds! You are very excited about the 2019 IFMAR 1/8 On-Road Worlds which is going to be held at Steel City R/C Speedway in Fontana, California. What makes this event in particular so exciting for you?

Eric: It’s only a 20 mile drive from my house! That’s going to be awesome to attend a worlds and get to sleep in my own bed. It will also provide a great opportunity for us to design a new 1/8 body specifically to excel at Steel City.  The Goodwine family has created an amazing facility and I’m so excited for them to be able to show it off to the best in the world.

LiveRC: Will you be racing as well as attending to support the PROTOform team?

Eric: TBD! I have only ran 1/8 once, but it’s for sure the most fun class I’ve ever had a chance to race. I guess if I’m going to check “Race a Worlds” off my bucket list, this would be the one!

LiveRC: Do you and/or PROTOform have any involvement in the Steel City track besides it being your home track?

Eric: We help organize and are the title sponsor of 2 big events there a year: The PROTOform Nitro Grand Prix in the spring, and the PROTOform Cup electric race in the fall. Both were great successes this year and we look forward to growing them even bigger in 2019. Other than those 2 weekends, I just get to practice, test products, race, and enjoy the world-class facility. 

LiveRC: I have yet to visit the facility, but from my understanding it is truly a one of a kind world class facility. Would it be fair to say there is currently no other on-road R/C facility like it in the country?

Eric: The closest comparison would be Homestead RC Raceway, where the 1/10 Worlds were just hosted, as it is also located on the grounds of a full-scale racing track. But if anyone knows the Goodwine family, they know everything they do is absolutely 100% first-class. The track is always prepped perfectly and consistently, the grounds are clean, and the driver’s stand is an amazing piece of engineering. Being surrounded by karting, autocross, drag racing, exotic cars ripping around Auto Club Speedway, and the stellar SoCal weather creates a racing atmosphere that I believe is unmatched.

LiveRC: Would you say with tracks like Steel City opening that on-road R/C racing has been growing over the past few years?

Eric: It has certainly reinvigorated the racing scene in Southern California, especially with the legendary Tamiya USA track having to close its doors.

LiveRC: What class do you recommend most for either new racers and/or off-road racers looking to try on-road for the first time, and why?

Eric: I would say stepping into one of the two “scale” classes, USGT and F1, are good places to start because the cars look realistic, they aren’t ballistically fast, and they usually have a good group of racers that don’t take themselves too seriously like when you step up to Super Stock or Modified classes.

LiveRC:  The IIC is fast approaching, who are your top picks for PROTOform at the event?

Eric:  I don’t like to pick favourites, I just hope all our PROTOform team drivers are successful. 

LiveRC: Will you be attending the IIC as well?

Eric: Yes sir! I will be racing in the Spec GT and Stock Touring Car classes with my PROTOform / Team Associated cars.

LiveRC: Eric, it was a pleasure chatting with you as always. Is there anything you would like to add before we go?

Eric: Always fun chatting with you Mike and thanks for the opportunity. See you in Vegas!

 

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