In the world of R/C car racing there is a wide range of characters. Everyone from the quiet kept racer in the corner to the loud mouth yelling at turn marshalls on the track. Somewhere in between those is an innovator, a dreamer, a straight to the point, tell it like it is car designer and racer. His name is Joseph ‘JQ’ Quagraine. Joseph is a professional racer that decided he would build a car of his own, giving birth to JQ Products. Over the years, THECar has picked up momentum, the company has continued to grow, and we have sat down with JQ in this edition of ‘Word Up’ to discuss it all!
“Sometimes I wish I had just gone for racing as much as possible, as a professional, sometimes I wish I had started JQRacing sooner.”
RCN: Welcome Joseph to RCN’s “Word Up!” I think most people probably already know the name Joseph Quagraine (aka “JQ”), but for those who don’t, can you give us a little background of who you are, where you came from, and how you became involved in R/C racing?
JQ: You can read all about it HERE.
RCN: You decided for some reason that racing wasn’t enough, and you wanted to build a car of your own. When, where, and why did you decide this is something you wanted to pursue?
JQ: The decision happened around 2005-2006 when I realized that I would only be able to race professionally for a few years, and that living on racing would be a risky prospect. I really did not want to have a ”normal job”, so I decided to make sure to get a job within the R/C industry, that I enjoyed. I did not intend to start my own company, I just wanted to have some sort of job security, and a job in the R/C industry. Sometimes I wish I had just gone for racing as much as possible, as a professional, sometimes I wish I had started JQRacing sooner. It is what it is.
RCN: Over the years there has been multiple new companies and cars try to compete with the “big gun” manufacturers with little success. Why did you think your journey would be any different?
JQ: That’s a good question. I think that everyone starting their own company thinks they will be successful, so in this way my goals or thinking does not differ from anyone else starting a company. At first I did not really even give the topic much thought, I just knew what I wanted to do, and did it. If anything, I thought I could differentiate myself by being honest, telling my story, and providing customers with a lot of useful information and support. After being in the market I did start thinking about this problem, and I think I have figured out why new companies have not really managed to break through. It has to do with what sells cars. I am in the R/C Racing market, so what I am about to explain applies to racing cars, and is of course just my opinion.
There are four main things that sell cars. 1. The car itself is good. 2. The car is winning big races. 3. The car has good distribution and availability. 4. The car brand has a following, it stands for something. The big brands, like Kyosho and Mugen for example, have all four of these points covered. For a new brand coming in, like ourselves, it is very hard, almost impossible, to get all four points covered quickly. The problem is, that even if one of these points is missing completely, you simply will not be very successful, and to control all points, you need to invest a lot of money, and time. Let’s break it down:
- The car needs to be good: Obviously you may say, but in the past it did not need to be, as long as you had the other 3 points, you were good. Now, with the amount of options available, and the quick spread of information and knowledge, even the big companies need to have good cars, or they won’t be successful. In my opinion, with the White Edition, we now have a good enough car to be competing with any brand on the market.
- The car needs to win big races: This is something that is not really required for already established brands, if they have the other 3 points covered, but for new brands it is vital. Because no matter how good your car is, if it doesn’t win major races, the majority of people won’t believe it is good. You can get certain areas, where local hot shots win with the car, and it becomes popular locally, but it is still not viewed as a ”top car”. The only way to break this barrier, is to win big. For us, this has not happened because I am not a good enough driver, and we can’t afford to hire someone to just race for us at this time. In the future it is clear that we need to win big races.
- The car has good distribution and availability: There are two problems here. There are so many brands out there, and enough big brands out there, that all good distribution channels are already busy, and taken. If you are a new brand, it is very hard to get your product into big distributors, and then into many hobby shops, specially, if your line is very small, like ours is. If you had great demand, it could be possible, but one of the reasons you don’t have great demand, is that the product is not available, and people don’t want to buy something they can’t get spare parts for easily. So in my opinion distribution and availability can only be achieved after you achieve the other 3 points. In my opinion our distribution and availability varies a lot worldwide. Some areas are great, due to good local distribution, some very bad. This is why we started jqracing.com, in order to improve our availability worldwide.
- The car brand has a following: This means that people feel something, and have some emotional tie to the brand. They have an opinion. They are fans, they buy all your products, they support you, or on the other hand, they dislike you. To be successful you need this. This is why some companies pay a driver to run their car, they start winning races, yet they do not see a significant increase in sales. No one cares! So this is a vital part too, and this is the part I feel we got covered.
So to get back to your question, how will we do it, when so many others have failed, this is how: We will continue to improve our already good product, our customer support and sharing of knowledge, information, and fun, and when we finally do start winning, we will manage to improve our sales network, and we will be successful. Keep on doing what we are doing + time and money. That’s it.
RCN: We would say you have been quite successful so far in our opinion, what has driven you to keep pushing on?
JQ: I have not been anywhere near as successful as I want to be.
RCN: What is your ultimate goal for JQRacing?
JQ: I want JQRacing to be a profitable company that runs a successful R/C Racing team, and helps young kids become champions of the sport. I want people who are associated with JQRacing to enjoy their racing as much as possible on and off the track. I want to be in a position where we can develop racing cars that are ahead of the competition and that push R/C car design further ahead.
RCN: You have received criticism over the years, and recently as well, regarding the design of your car. Did you truly design this car from front to back, top to bottom yourself?
JQ: Yes I did, and I would say that such criticism is unfounded. I designed and thought about every single part. I would like to add, that I have realised most people have a very unrealistic view of product design and development. They do not understand the cost and time constraints. I don’t always get to do what I would like to do, because if I did we would already be out of business. Let’s say we start selling a car 6 months after the design has been finalised. During that 6 months we may have figured out a better solution for a certain part on the car. I can’t then immediately change it, as we just started selling the car, specially if it is a moulded part. I need to wait until the next opportunity to make an update. So in fact, I tend to always be at least one step ahead of what we are selling. But try publicly showing something new, sales will stop, as people will now be waiting for something new. It is very hard to live from sales of a product, and constantly be developing that same product. There is no room for error.
RCN: If you build an all-new design, people hate on you if it fails. If you put your twist on an existing working design instead, people hate on you because its not “original”. How do you ever win?
JQ: You don’t win, you can just be true to yourself. I have read what people say about my car, and also other cars, sometimes people hit the mark, sometimes they are way off, but they always believe they are right. I know for a fact that most cars on the market are not truly developed. Many cars, even some of the ones of the top brands, are not even driven before they are produced. That is not product development in my opinion. That is not an effor to make the best car, that is just making toys to make money, and that’s sad. There are only a few companies out there who truly try and understand what is going on, and truly develop their cars, and I think we are one of them. We started out with a car that was extreme in every way, combining what we believed to make a fast car, and it was, it was just hard to drive. And now we are learning how to make the fastest possible driveable well handling car. Only time will prove that we are right in our claims that we are truly developing our products, and learning to understand them. Because in the future our products will differ more from the other cars on the market, as we learn more.
RCN: How has the car evolved over the years?
JQ: Quite a lot I would say. If you look at the first car and the car we have now, the overall quality has improved dramatically, as well as the design itself. The first year we mainly worked on strength, durability and quality, and since then, after proving that the car is strong, we have been working on quality control and improving the handling of the car. The first year really hurt our image as people today still think the car is weak, when in fact it is now one of the strongest on the market. It just took a year or so for the old parts in circulation to be used up, which extended the time the car was fragile, and since then eventhough it is strong it still has a weak car’s image in many places. However lately I am happy to say that the huge improvements in handling have made people take a second (or first) look at the car. For example at the recent Nordic Championships in Sweden 5 out of the 12 finalists ran the White Edition, and this included two first time Nordic Championship finalists who this year have made a jump into A finals.
For me, the biggest difference with the White Edition compared to the previous versions, is that the car’s maximum pace is so much higher. With the previous cars, when everything clicked, I felt like I hit the ceiling, I could not go faster. Trying to go faster would result in a mistake due to the car doing something unexpected. With the WE, when everything is right, I can go faster and faster until I make a mistake. That’s a great feeling to have when racing. It’s awesome when you are at the track and you feel that your driving is the only thing holding you back, then when you improve and go faster it is really rewarding. Now we are working on improving the handling so the car can be pushed even further, as well as working on QC and quality of production, in an effort to have more stable quality of all parts, and no mistakes in any kits.
RCN: You recently re-structured JQ Products and developed JQRacing. What is the reasoning behind this?
JQ: The reason is that I intend to do more than just R/C Cars in the future, using the JQ brand, and it made sense to differentiate the brands. JQ Products is the mother company if you will, JQRacing is R/C Cars, and the rest you will see in the future.
RCN: THECar has had some great success in Europe, Asia, etc., but still lacks a major race win in America. How do you plan to change that?
JQ: We need to get a race team going in America, that is the only way. But in America there are a lot of paid drivers at the top, and we can’t afford to pay drivers just to race at this time, so this is why we can’t win there.
RCN: We’ve seen prototype versions of your 1/10 scale 4wd several years in a row at the Reedy Race. Will we ever see a production version?
JQ: Yes, just not any time soon. I wanted to make sure that my ideas for my 4wd worked, and they did, so now I am just waiting for the timing to be right. We are a small company, and we can’t spread ourselves too thin. Making a car is not as easy as most people think. There is a lot more to it than just paying the manufacturer to produce the parts, there is packaging, manuals, marketing material, website content, pricelists to create and produce, and most importantly, testing and development, and product support once the car is done. We don’t just make the car, sell it and forget about it.
RCN: Do you ever plan to expand into a full line of 1/10 scale vehicles (2wd, SCT, etc.)?
JQ: I will make 2wd and 4wd buggies, other than that I do not know. I think the 1:8th buggies, and 1:10th buggies may be enough.
RCN: Originally you said you would never build an electric 1/8 buggy, as you thought they were “stupid” if I’m not mistaken. You changed your mind, why?
JQ: I did not change my mind. Search “stupid” in our webshop at jqracing.com. We produced one because of the demand for one, and because it is so close to the nitro version.
RCN: What about your racing? You mentioned earlier that your car has not won because you are not a good enough driver, but was your original goal not to win with your own car?
JQ: Yes it was and still is. I will never be a driver that can go to any race and be in with a chance of winning, but I do believe that when all the conditions are right I have a chance. I have a few more years to make sure that I am prepared if the day comes when everything is right, track, setup, luck, if I am prepared that day, I can win. That has been the big challenge now, to figure out a way where I have the time to actually prepare and focus enough on racing to where I am ready when the time comes. Unfortunately there is so much work to be done that takes away time and focus from racing. Other people in the industry have said that it is impossible to be a top racer aswell as run a serious and successful company. My intention is to prove those people wrong, I guess I live in my own reality.
RCN: Let’s talk a bit outside of your company. What are your thoughts on the RC8.3 seen at the Neo Race (which is rumored to be abandoned for a fresh start)?
JQ: Well now you put me on the spot, I tell my opinion and will get blasted. Watch. Looking at the RC8.3 it shared a lot with our original car, even down to the aggressive gearing. We disproved many of our theories and thoughts from that first car, so I knew when I first saw the 8.3 that they would struggle, as they did. The car was fast, but very hard to drive under most conditions. Why they produced a car like this so many years after many other brands backtracked, I do not know.
RCN: Before signing with SWORKz, Atsushi Hara had some success running THECar, and spoke highly of it. What are your thoughts and feelings towards him signing with them instead?
JQ: I pretty much knew at the time where he was going, but did of course try, and hope that we could have ended up working together. If you look at the 4 reasons for a racing car selling, we would have pretty much locked up points 1 and 2 with Hara, and strengthened 4.
RCN: If you had unlimited funds to bring any driver on board with JQRacing, who would it be, and why?
JQ: It would have actually been Hara because he understands that there is more to being a professional RC Car driver than just winning races. He knows a lot about setup and racing, is able to help with development, is able to win, and is also well liked everywhere around the world.
RCN: Some people have questioned your “straight to the point” and “blunt” marketing and personality, especially in the social media world. What makes you feel these tactics are an advantage to JQRacing?
JQ: I would have to disagree as far as marketing is concerned. I think our company marketing has been universally liked. I think mostly if someone says they don’t like the marketing, the truth is they don’t like me, and that’s where I do agree, personally I am straight to the point, and blunt. I think for us to have got to this point, I have had to be this way. Starting from nothing, to get to this point, you just can’t do it if your primary goal is to be best friends with everyone. That only happens in movies. However, now that we are here, to get to the next level, it could be argued that a course in emotional intelligence could be beneficial. However, I would much rather be both liked and hated, than faced with only indifference. And to be fair, the opinions I share that get people riled up, are ones that many people have, yet keep to themselves. They are opinions that make people with narrow minded views either realize there are more ways to look at a situation, or resort to calling me names. Usually it is the latter.
RCN: What are your thoughts on the upcoming IFMAR World Championships in Italy? IF it is run on concrete, how will you prepare for that?
JQ: If it is run on concrete the organizers are a bunch of liars, and I doubt they want to be seen in that light, but I will prepare also for that scenario.
RCN: What are your opinions of the locations IFMAR chooses to host the World Championships?
JQ: I don’t know how they choose, but I do know it is not for the benefit of the manufacturers, or the racers. For whose benefit is the question, and a valid one I think. One that far more people should be asking.
RCN: Well JQ, I think we have covered just about all that we can think to ask you. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we go?
JQ: Don’t live your life according to other people’s plans, figure out what you want to do yourself, and do it. Don’t care what other people think or say. Don’t care or worry about what is ”normal”, and remember that lack of money is just an excuse. It’s a really simple concept, but hard for most people to really understand: Do what you want!
Also, try my car before judging it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. And just in case you are thinking I would but it’s not available….it is HERE.