The Durango name first burst onto the scene in 1/8th Offroad in 2007 as Jorn Neumann won the Pro-Line Indoor Challenge in the UK with an early prototype car, in the time since there have been many changes, but in early 2010 Team Durango announced their production buggy the DNX408, and now in the last weeks they have begun to accumulate drivers like nothing ever seen before. After occupying the headlines for the last few days we thought it only right to speak directly with Jason Dearden, team principle of Team Durango.

NB: Jason, if we could start out with an introduction, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and the background of Team Durango ?
JD: I’m English, I’ve been involved in RC car racing since about ‘82 (12th scale was the thing back then), I retired racing shortly after winning 10th pan car European championship in ’92 to take care of a distribution company I started. In ’98 I was hired by HPI to start HPI Europe, I left there in late 2008, in 2009 I landed with the job of managing the Team Durango business.
Durango is the brain child of Gerd Strenge (from Germany) he made all sort of hand made cars for top pros which gained numerous titles over the years. Gerd’s talent was supported by Serpent for a time, where he hooked up with Michael Vollmer (also from Germany) who adds the style to Gerd’s engineering ideas. When Serpent went bust Gerd and Michael found independent support for their designs and resurrected the Team Durango name.
Today – Sales, marketing, graphics, web and small EU warehouse is in England. HRP warehouse parts for USA and we have inventory/stock in Taiwan too. Materials are spec’d and handmade test cars are made in Germany by Gerd Strenge. CAD Design is Germany or UK depending on the parts, and production/packing is Taiwan like pretty much all the race cars are today.

“We want winners”

NB: The Durango name has been strongly linked with 1/10th EL Offroad, why branch into noisy and smelly 1/8 Offroad ?
JD: 8th off road – Well it’s the king of off-road racing classes, and to prove what we can do we have to be in this class. But we still love electric too, DESC410R will ship at the end of the month, DEX408 is coming soon and the big project for this year is a 2wd platform for buggy, truck and short course. Gas Truggy should be June – fingers crossed. There is no let up.

NB: The buggy was announced in January 2010 but the project appeared to hit a sticking point and the release appeared to be delayed until late 2010, what were the reasons for this ?
JD: The devil is in the detail, we wanted a super low CofG car AND super narrow car, it’s the basis of the design and it’s something that’s not been done this extreme before. Everything is very tight in the car, small changes have major knock on effects to other parts. Mould changes are not fast, then there was more testing, more tweaking. Plus we had a new staff to train up and we dropped the ball on some stupid admin things as a result. 2010 was a great year for building the foundations, we should not see such delays in future projects; but we will never release a car till it’s ready. Our customers are just that ‘paying customers’, they are not test drivers – that’s our job so they will only get released when the car is ready.

Hupo Honigl driving at Neo2010 (April 2010)

NB: The headlines over the past weeks have been saturated with stories of Durango driver signings, most if not all at the top of their game; in recent times we have seen a the influx of new cars in 1/8th and larger teams dissolved into smaller 1-2 or 3 man core teams, what is thinking behind the scale of this team?
JD: We don’t have a big team in comparison to Losi, Kyosho, Associated, Mugen etc; but of course we are new so it’s getting noticed. We are still small fry in comparison to those guys. 
As for the drivers – We want ‘winners’ that can represent the company, help the average TD owners and give us the feedback we need to make the product better. For proper feedback we need spread the team around the world and on a range of tyres (no point in them all being in SoCal) that way we make sure we know how the cars perform in all the different conditions.

NB: It can’t be cheap to take on all these team drivers, is this a long term solution for racing results or a hasty bid for race wins in 2011 ?
JD: Durango are here for the long term, we are investing in moulds and a range of product, only for racing. No RTR for Durango. Race drivers are the feedback loop to keep development moving forward, it’s part of the long term investment. Almost all the top guys have commitments from worlds to worlds so it’s all come together nicely.
As for the cost, it’s not as expensive as you may think when you have a fast car and a genuine commitment to make it faster. Racers in their prime must have a fast car and we will make sure we provide that – that goes a long way to keeping costs in check – everything is about the car. We are not in the business of hastily cutting corners; getting these drivers for 2011 is because we have a good car, and that started in 2007 when Gerd began work on the revolutionary DNX408.

Durango’s team for 2012 ?

NB: Team Durango’s motto is “Serious about Racing”, indeed in the hands of Ryan Lutz at the Worlds he had one of the fastest laptimes on the finals day, is this part of the package that has helped sign so many drivers?
Ryan was consistently fast in Pattaya, which got other pros hanging round our pit area, so yes that had a direct effect on the interest in the car and the signings we have now been able to make. Ryan had fastest laps in I think it was 3 of the 6 qualification rounds and second fastest lap for the finals day with a 43.932 and that was while he was racing for bump up spot not some blow out frustration lap. Ryan is fast, nothing new there, but what surprised people was that he was very new to what is a very radical and different car. He was fast whatever the condition of the track, whatever tyres and the car was not breaking. Several of the guys that we have signed recently raced wheel to wheel with Ryan and Hupo and will have seen what the car can do to them. The odds were against us in Pattaya, we had our share of bad luck and only two cars to share it between, but yes people saw the potential of the chassis it was a big step to where we are today.
We showed potential, but that’s all; it was Cody King that showed us all how it should be done, the drive of a true champion.

NB: Robert Batlle has been spotted testing your buggy, are you currently talking with him about signing ?
Yes we are. He is fast with the car and we made him a final offer today (5/01/2011). We hope he will be the final piece of the European team, but I understand the bigger teams are offering most money, so we see. We would love to have him, fingers are crossed.

NB: The DNX408 is one of a number of new buggys that have entered the market in 2010/11 and appears to be the highest priced ($698.99) when compared to the Agama ($449.99), Serpent ($499.99) & JQ Car ($519.99), why that pricepoint ? [Source: Amain Hobbies]
JD: There are very good reasons –
– six alloy bulkheads for a start (two front, two centre, two rear) – a big chunk off 5mm thick 7075 for the chassis with LOADS of machining – alloy sleeves for the gearbox input bearings, – none stressed, tight fitting diff cases – loads of rubber boots -proper engine mount in the kit
…the cars you mention, in fact most cars on the market offer, more traditional solutions which are cheaper to make.

However the key difference is that most other cars use plastic moulded bulkheads which double as diff cases. This design has the plastic being distorted by the suspension forces which are bolted to them and the transmission forces inside them. In our opinion and in theory this design compromises both the suspension and drive line performance. Durango went for alloy bulkheads and separate diff cases; each do their own job. It’s almost impossible to prove 100% which approach is best, it’s down to the customer to make their choice and pay their money.

NB: Lastly a cheeky question if you could sign one driver in 1/8 Offroad apart from those you have, who would it be ?
Next on our hit list is Robert Batlle.
But for a dream team I would add Hara, Tebo, Drake (top pros) and Ronnefalk (young talent)– who wouldn’t 
Anyway back to reality, we need a bit more representation in the USA – Kansas and Phoenix are the only clues I will give right now. If I’ve missed anyone let me know LOL

The dream team additions