Jim Hottinger – Interview Sept 2008
MyRCBox.com: You are one the best engine gurus. Where did this passion for engines come from?
Jim Hottinger: I have been involved in some form of racing all my life. When I was a teenager I used to race my car, that I modified myself, at the local drag strip. I’ve always been what they call a gear head. I like to make things go fast and now that I get to work with the best engine lines in the world, Novarossi, it’s been a lot of fun.
MyRCBox.com: You own Fusion Motorsports (www.fusionmotorsports.com), for people who don’t know your business yet, what is Fusion Motorsports?
Jim Hottinger: The name actually comes from a business partner that I started out with. He use to race go-karts and sprint cars. The best way to explain it is “Fusion” or passion for all motorsports. When I first started, I was planning on diversifying in the RC industry carrying more brands. However the opportunity I received from Novarossi has allowed me to focus 100% of my attention and efforts to just engines.
MyRCBox.com: How long have you been working with Novarossi engines?
Jim Hottinger: I have been working with Novarossi engines for more than 10 years through Paris Racing and now my own company. I worked for Paris Racing for approximately 20 years before going into business for myself.
MyRCBox.com: What are racers expecting from you when you modify an engine? What do they ask most often?
Jim Hottinger: They expect quality, reliability and performance. I work hard to give all three expectations top priority. The most asked questions from customers are “can you make mine faster than the other guy?” My answer is that I can give you a fast engine; however you need to know how to drive.
MyRCBox.com: On your website www.novarossiusa.com , I noticed that for and extra $100(US), racers can buy a modified engine. What do they get for the extra bucks?
Jim Hottinger: We do porting, polishing, relief work, aero-dynamic cuts and stress relieving. We are also able to check all the parts within the engine and make sure each engine is the same. What these modifications do is increase the midrange and top-end, it also smoothes out the power band.
MyRCBox.com: Out of the factory, Novarossi are very powerful and reliable, how can you “squeeze” more power out of them?
Jim Hottinger: Yes, Novarossi engines out the factory are very powerful and reliable. There are still modifications that can be done to “squeeze” a little extra out. Some of the modifying techniques I use are time consuming for machines and not cost effective for production runs. The higher quality engine, the less that has to be done; Novarossi is very diligent in their research and development. Novarossi just TQ’d and Won the 2008 USA 1/8th On-Road Nationals. This was possible because of all the effort Novarossi puts into all their engines.
MyRCBox.com: Do the precision and quality of the workmanship of the Rossi Family influence you in your work?
Jim Hottinger: There is a term called “Master Craftsman”, I have had the pleasure to finally meet a true “Master Craftsman”. His name is Cesare Rossi. This man inspires me to do the best job I can and to never think anything is impossible. Take a look at the engines 20 years and the engines of today, it is amazing to see how much more power these engines produce. There have been many times I have said to myself “how can these engines get any faster?” Yet, Novarossi always does.
MyRCBox.com: Do you modify all engines yourself? Or do you have a team working for you?
Jim Hottinger: You must remember Ron Paris hired me and trained me to modify engines. Due to Ron’s success with modifying he became overwhelmed with work. This has happened to me as well. I hired Chris Nunez in and have been training him for about one year. I still oversee all modifying and talk to Chris daily about what we can improve or if there are any changed inside the engines. Yes, I still do modify engines.
MyRCBox.com: Any ideas of how many engines you have modified so far?
Jim Hottinger: Between Paris Racing and Fusion Motorsports I would estimate somewhere near 50,000. Yes, I’ve been doing this along time, I now need glasses.
MyRCBox.com: We all read on the web of people modifying engines with a Dremel, but at your level, what kind of tools do you use?
Jim Hottinger: We use jigs and fixtures that I learned how to make from the Paris Racing days. Yes, I do have a rotary tool; it’s good for finishing work. I pretty much do it the same we have always done it for years. It was cost effective then and is still cost effective now. I’m kind of evasive on questions like this, because there have too many hacks thinking they can modify engines and all they really do is take the customers money and ruin the engine. That’s why I don’t explain in detail of what I do, how I do it and what I use to do modifying.
MyRCBox.com: Do you think anyone can modify and engine or do you think anyone can ruin an engine? LOL
Jim Hottinger: I’ve seen some pretty bad hack jobs. Let’s just say it’s easier to remove metal than to add it. With that said, there is a fine line between modifying a engine correctly or ending up with a pile of scrap. You need to really understand what is going on inside these engines. There a lot of Dremel wizards but only a few true engine modifiers.
MyRCBox.com: What is the lifetime of a modified engine compared to a stock engine?
Jim Hottinger: There is a little more wear and tear on modified engines, remember more power is more work on the engine itself. In the end it really depends on the hobbyist, if the engines are not properly tuned or taken care of they will not last. I have had many calls telling me that my modified Novarossi P5’s have had 10 gallons and more before failing. It is really hard to say which last longer due to so many human factors for engine failures.
MyRCBox.com: For many engine manufacturers, nitro is all about claimed horsepower and use HP’s as a sells argument. What do you think of this market strategy?
Jim Hottinger: I may get in trouble for this answer, however I feel it is a big con game. I have seen .12 engines claim to have more horsepower than a Novarossi .21 P5. The reason I say BS on this is that there are too many factors that affect the horsepower ratings of these micro engines; such as, nitro content, oil package in the fuel, type of testing equipment and outside atmospheric conditions. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
MyRCBox.com: Have you ever raced RC Cars or have you always stayed focused on engines?
Jim Hottinger: I’ve never been very interested in driving RC Cars, I prefer the mechanics of them. I’m a problem solver so to dig into an engine and see what it has is more fun to me. When I worked at Paris Racing, one of the conditions that I would never drive RC Cars, I guess Ron felt that it would not be good to have someone working on his own stuff when they should be working. I always resented that fact and that is why I allow Chris to work on his own stuff during work hours. I found that it enhances our creativity on developing new tricks. Through this we developed the Plus 21-7FMS, this is the first engine that I have ever spec’d out and believe me I was nervous. However, this engine really rocks! Look for the engine review in RC Car Magazine in the next few months.
MyRCBox.com: Anything you would like to change in the RC industry?
Jim Hottinger: I would like to see the IFMAR and ROAR rules brought closer to alignment. We run ROAR races and ROAR rules for all the events here, then for the World Championship we run IFMAR rules. I believe if the rules we more congruent it would be easier for manufacturers and drivers.
MyRCBox.com: Concerning engines, what is the best advice you can give to a club level racer and newcomers to RC?
Jim Hottinger: To pay attention to what you are doing. It sounds simple enough, however this is what the major cause of engine failure is. Next I would say to learn how to drive and not worry about so much power and above all have fun.
MyRCBox.com: With the LiPo invasion, where do you see the nitro scene in five years?
Jim Hottinger: You know there is just something about nitro, the sound, the smell of nitro in the air; it just gets in your blood. I really don’t see that nitro will be too affected by the LiPo invasion. Pretty much all the nitro drivers get the same engines, get the same cars, the only difference is the driving ability.
MyRCBox.com: Novarossi introduced a new line of engines with a more affordable price tag. Is the less than $200 market something that Novarossi wants to explore?
Jim Hottinger: Yes, it’s been Novarossi’s mission to produce a basic engine line with all the Novarossi quality for the RTR market. It’s my opinion that you do not get the best of engines in an RTR kit. I was very happy to see that Novarossi took a vested interest into producing engines that can potentially draw RTR owners deeper into nitro racing.
MyRCBox.com: Generally, all the exposure goes to the racers and car manufacturers. Do you feel engine manufacturers receive enough recognition?
Jim Hottinger: I don’t believe engine manufacturers receive enough recognition at races, these engines are expensive, in fact one 367 can cost as much as a car kit. With a car kit you have some spares, with engines you usually have two or three in your box and have had them rebuilt at least once during the season.