Q: Your stock in trade seems to be taking over existing brands and making them grow. Is that a fair statement?
RP: It’s a two-edged sword. I was telling a longtime employee the other day that one of the things I will miss in my life is never having started my own brand. I bought MasterCraft in 1999 and did a good job of making the brand global. Then along came the opportunity to save the Impact Racing brand from its industry black-eye. We resurrected it through hard work and tenacity. So, maybe starting my own thing isn’t why I’m here, and maybe isn’t what I do.
However, make no mistake in that having the stewardship of iconic brands come with their own set of challenges and responsibility. I’ve never felt like these were my brands, but I have had the chance to drive them for a while. Jimco will be the same way, but likely more so in terms of what it stands for and carry on the legacy.
Q: That’s true, but building seats and helmets is a far different task than turnkey racecars and world-class components isn’t it?
RP: That’s for sure. However, people forget my whole career started as a welder and fabricator. Creating beautiful products from steel and talented craftsmanship is an art that I both understand and appreciate. I can take a Jimco Trophy-Truck in the middle of Gasoline Alley at Indianapolis during the month of May and every mechanic, team owner and race driver would be in awe of the handcrafted nature of what we build.
Q: Having been involved with so many aspects of top-level motorsports. what is the one thing your peers outside of off-road racing don’t understand?
RP: From a business side they have no idea how big it is. I don’t think they have any idea how big of an industry off-road racing really is, mainly because you can’t see it all in one place. You can go to Daytona and see all of NASCAR, but the whole off-road motorsports and lifestyle activity is so spread out. That has been MasterCraft and Impact’s secret weapon, we were part of the community, and the community rewarded us with loyalty and sales. One thing that I can tell you is that those drivers and industry people who have experienced it talk about it with a sense of respect and enthusiasm. When I speak with a Sebastian Bourdias or Alexander Rossi or NASCAR drivers, you tell them you race the Baja 500 or Baja 1000, and that’s all they want to talk about. They never ask how many races you won or championships; they want to pursue what for many of them is one of their goals.
Q: Speaking of which, you were a repeat Jimco customer before becoming the new owner of Jimco…
RP: Yep. That was one of the rewards to myself. I wanted to own one brand new Jimco Trophy-Truck again. I bought the first one, and this will be the 21st one sold. Wow, that means the first truck we are going to build under my ownership is going to be my own!
Q: So, what does the immediate future look like in terms of Jimco?
RP: It’s already started, and we are going back to the future in the sense that we want to evolve to a place where we have a completed Jimco Trophy-Truck, and Jimco Class 1 car, on the sales floor ready for delivery. In this day and age, customers want it now; you have to have product on the shelf ready to go. Having access to ready-built vehicles is one aspect of our growth plan.
Another area of excitement and investment will be in the rapidly growing UTV market, which Matt has already started with some promising initial success. It’s next-level products with the experience and craftsmanship that Jimco is so famous for around the world.
What’s also exciting is that Jimco is now a master WD [Warehouse Distributor] for both MasterCraft and Impact Racing products, so we can ensure the off-road community will not have their loyalty left behind. So we will bring that service full circle via Jimco.
Q: From your perspective, what technology is going to take this sport into the near-term future?
RP: Great question. From my perspective, there are several areas in the area of overall safety I’ve gained from my experience with MasterCraft and Impact that can be applied to off-road chassis construction. Beyond that, the next step looks to be going to active suspension with more advanced power plants and also high-technology all-wheel drive systems.
Q: You recently had the chance to both race and spectate the SCORE San Felipe 250 as the new owner of Jimco. How was that experience?
RP: Honestly, it was awesome and a little terrifying all at once. I loved racing my Jimco Trophy-Truck again, but the really enjoyable thing was having everyone come up to me and congratulate me on the news. Our new mid-engine Class 1 car did really well out of the box thanks to our crew and Wilson Motorsports. That said, it also dawned on me that I have a big responsibility in keeping the brand’s reputation alive and growing as we head down this path.
Q: Finally, what is the single biggest thing you are looking forward to as you craft your final career chapter?
RP: Oh, that’s easy. Just being back within this entire off-road community and watching the first Jimco’s being built as part of the company. This is no fad, and it’s something so many people around the world carry such a huge passion for. Outside of family and friends, to most of us this thing we do is the highlight of our lives. It matters.
I have been fortunate in my career to build things that matter, whether it’s seats for the military that are helping protect soldier’s lives or safety equipment doing the same things for racers. Building state-of-the-art off-road race vehicles will a great way to cap off my career.