In the world of R/C racing, there are many different people who play many different roles. One man who has played more than one of those roles is none other than Levi Jackson. The once professional racer has turned his love for dirt, R/C cars, and bulldozers into what is quickly becoming one of the most popular track building companies in America; SiK Track Designs. We’ve caught up between track builds with the dirt designing guru to chat about the past, present, future of Levi Jackson and SiK Track Designs.
RCN: Mr. Jackson, thank you for sitting down and taking a few minutes outside the dozer to have a chat with us! Let’s jump right in talking about your track building company ‘SiK Track Designs’. How did SiK get started?
Levi: Back when I was a kid, my father Rob Jackson and I helped start a track in Beaumont, California… I’m sure most of you have heard of it, Thunder Alley R/C Raceway! We were a big part of that track and always helping out. One day I jumped in the tractor and started playing around, seeing what I could do, and that was the start to my operating career. I was 14 when I first started. I built many tracks at Thunder Alley including two 1/8 Nitro Offroad Nationals tracks in 2008 and 2011. More tracks started hearing about my layouts and wanting tracks built, so I decided might as well try and make a side business out of it! Some side business huh?
RCN: Over the past year, you have stepped out of your California roots. Did you ever see yourself travelling and building R/C tracks for facilities all across the country?
Levi: Honestly, no. In the beginning I was just building tracks for my father at Thunder Alley, and I was perfectly fine with that. I believe the first build I did out of state was for the Mapston race in Washington, and that was a cool experience to get to travel and build somewhere new. Since then it’s been insane! Never thought I would be at the point I am today but I am very great full for the opportunity!
RCN: Of all the tracks you’ve built so far, which are you most proud of and why?
Levi: Oh man! That’s a tough one! Haha. There has been so many it’s hard just to remember the last track I built let alone pick my favorite. The most recent layout I did at Thunder Alley is probably one of my favorites! That one I was picturing in my head weeks ahead of time and by the time it was built I probably already ran an hour main in my head! lol It had a little bit of everything, it was challenging but yet doable, it flowed great and I had a blast watching the pro’s get around it!
RCN: Has Sik become your full-time job at this point?
Levi: I’m sure it may seem that way to many people who follow my builds but no, SiK is NOT my full-time job yet! I try and work full-time during the week as well for a construction company. Lately tracks have been causing me to miss some time from my day job but luckily my boss is a good friend of mine and races RC Cars as well so he works with my schedule. There has been stretches this year where I worked 2 months straight with zero days off, I am actually entering another stretch of 8 weeks straight with no rest! But I’m young so it’s good for me right? Haha
RCN: What about your racing career? You stepped away from racing as a professional several years ago. Do you still drive or race on a local level?
Levi: I do not race at all anymore, I don’t even own a single thing that involves RC actually! There’s just not enough time in my schedule to go to the track and practice or race. Between tracks and work and having some sort of life I had to give the racing portion up. Doesn’t mean I don’t miss it!
RCN: As a racer, what do you consider your biggest accomplishment to be?
Levi: My biggest accomplishment as a racer would have to be the 2010 1/8 Nitro Offroad IFMAR Worlds in Thailand. That was my last major race as well. I went there with basically no team, I ran Agama at the time which was a fairly new car, it was a challenging week of racing for sure…with the added pressure of being the Worlds! I struggled all week with the track surface and setup and somehow I managed to bump up several times and was one bump away from the semi’s when my engine case decided to explode on the huge concrete back double! I ended up 37th overall but could have easily made the top 20 so I went home with my head held high and a lot of compliments from other people in the industry!
RCN: Speaking of the Worlds, the IFMAR 1/10 World Championships are fast approaching, and the topic of discussion is the track. What are your thoughts as a dirt track building master regarding an all astroturf surface for the offroad World Championships?
Levi: I am very shocked by IFMAR’s decision allowing that. I have seen a couple videos of the warm up going on this weekend and it makes it even harder to watch. I think it’s something different than what most people are used to and it would be cool for any other race, but the Worlds? I just don’t understand how they could let the biggest race of the year be ran on AstroTurf. It will be very interesting to see the outcome of that race!
RCN: Does Sik offer astro track construction as well as dirt? (laughs)
Levi: Haha I think I will stick with dirt and only dirt! Unless there are any U.S. racers who want an AstroTurf track to practice on before worlds than of course I’d build it! 😉
RCN: Who do you predict will win the 2wd and 4wd classes this year?
Levi: I think it’s going to be tough to pick a winner for this one. The over seas guys have a clear advantage at this point but maybe some of the U.S. drivers can figure something out before then. It’s hard to count out a Tessman, Tebo, Cav or Maifield. Hopefully the U.S. Drivers will find a way to bring it home!
RCN: Aside from building tracks, you have also taken on the role of promoter and event organizer for several Sik events of your own. Tell us about that, and those events.
Levi: Last year I started my own event, Battle of the SiKest. Since last August I have now held 3 different Battle of the SiKest with another one coming up July 4-5 at Revelation Raceway. This race is very different than your normal nitro race, there are 3 rounds of qualifying, ALL different lengths. You have your short dash qualifier normally, then another qualifier that just stretches the fuel and a final qualifier that has been 15 minutes long. Sunday there are Triple A-Mains to determine the overall winner. It’s really a cool format and nobody ever ran Triple A-Mains in Nitro up till I started doing it last year, since then I have noticed a couple other tracks doing the same thing.
RCN: What are some of your upcoming plans, events, and track builds?
Levi: As far as builds I have a ton coming up in June/July. I think I counted 9 builds in the next 2 months. I leave next Thursday for Canada to build the layout for the Quebec Classic. Come home Monday and leave again Friday for a build in Santa Barbara!
As for events, Battle of the SiKest is a month away at Revelation Raceway on July 4-5. I am starting another new event SiKcross, October 24-25 at Thunder Alley. I am also keeping the famous Gas Champs going this year, a race my father started, but he is no longer involved in the RC world, so I will be taking over that race in 2015. It will be held at the new Dialed In Raceway in Victorville, Ca November 14-15.
RCN: If a facility is looking to have you bring your dirt working magic to their track, what is the best way for them to schedule a Sik Designs track build?
Levi: Most people follow me on Facebook, I think I have over 3,400 followers now on my SiK Track Designs page, which is insane! They can either message me on there or they can send me an email at Siktrackdesigns@gmail.com with any questions regarding track builds!
RCN: Well that track is not going to build itself, so we better let you get back to work. Thanks again for chatting with us Levi, is there anything you would like to add before we go?
Levi: Thank you Sir! I would just like to say thank you to all the racers who support me and to all the track owners for their continued support over the last few years! I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of you and I will continue to try and build you the SiKest layouts yet! Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview!