After conquering one of the toughest road races in the world, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team member Seth Quintero just wants to compete more.
“I want to be the most versatile rider possible,” Quintero said. “Instead of focusing on one thing, I want to be able to get into a trophy and be able to win a race. I want to go in a UTV and win a race, jump in an electric car and win a race.
It’s a lofty but seemingly achievable set of goals for fresh-faced Quintero. At only 19 years old, the driver has already achieved the performance of his life in the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, one of the most difficult and grueling off-road races in the world. Quintero made history beating some of the most talented and experienced international riders. This led to him becoming the youngest competitor to set a new record of 11 stage wins in a single Dakar, beating the record of 10 stage wins set by Pierre Lartigue during the 1994 Dakar Rally in 17 stages. Accelerating over sand and rock for nearly two weeks and 5,000 miles, the UTV racer was able to accomplish this feat not only through hard work and self-confidence, but also a background based on a honest effort that keeps Quintero grounded.
“I try to teach young people that anything is possible,” Quintero said. “I am not from the richest families. My parents both work from nine to five. So it’s not like you have to be born into the money to go out and run and have fun. You just need to have the best work ethic.
This work ethic grew out of Quintero’s love of sport. If he’s not road racing, he’s back home in his “turning key” garage. This ardor for anything that rides began for Quintero at age 4, riding quads and off-roading with his family in the desert sands near their home in San Marcos, California.
With a family team, Quintero started racing utility vehicles – UTVs – at the age of 10, with consequences that quickly became serious.
“We are super competitive and I wanted to do more and more. Things escalated pretty quickly,” Quintero said in his Red Bull biography.
At just 11 years old, Quintero won the 2014 UTV World Championship youth class, catching the attention of the Red Bull team. A year later and officially signed as a Red Bull off-roader, Quintero won the UTV World Championship. In 2018, Quintero was racing professionally in Las Vegas’ Best in the Desert series, which includes the MINT 400. In 2019, Quintero became the youngest driver to win the MINT, along with five additional races, winning the series championship Best in Desert. . It was time for bigger things.
The annual off-road endurance rally, organized by Amaury Sport Organization since its inception in 1978, is one of the most prestigious racing events in the world. Riders cover varied desert land and rock for thousands of miles in 12 days. Hosted in Saudi Arabia since 2020, the Dakar 2022 traveled through canyons and cliffs before skirting the coasts of the Red Sea. Drivers then cruised over stretches of dunes surrounding Riyadh before heading to the isolated and boundless southern sand dunes of the Empty Quarter on the Arabian Peninsula before returning to Jeddah, on the country’s western border.
Quintero got his first taste of the Dakar in 2020 before becoming the youngest stage winner when he took the checkered flag for Stage 6 in 2021, racing in the T3 Lightweight Prototype class. This preparation and experience has helped him better prepare for 2022. Last year, for example, Quintero spent three months in Dubai and Morocco fixing issues with his UTV. With only a few days off before the race, the driver was already exhausted before starting.
“I think that’s why we’ve done so well this year,” Quintero said. “I stopped driving for about a month and a half. I’ve been snowboarding, I’ve been dirt biking, I’ve been fishing, I’ve been hanging out with all my friends, I’ve been mountain biking – I was just a normal 19 year old – and when I had the Dakar, I was delighted to drive.
Ironically, a mechanical breakdown also allowed Quintero this freedom in the race. After winning the prologue and Stage 1, Quintero’s vehicle suffered broken front and rear differentials which left him 16 hours behind the overall lead and out of contention for the class title.
Sitting in the dark for hours waiting for rescue in the freezing desert of Saudi Arabia, Quintero considered finishing his race there, as there were still 10 days of racing ahead of him with no hope of an overall title. Instead, the runner refocused his focus on breaking Lartigue’s record. Onward without pressure to win the whole rally, Quintero set the fastest time on each subsequent stage, from 3rd to 12th.
After a quick turnaround in the United States and with little time to prepare for his race, Quintero will return to the Nevada desert for an off-road race in Laughlin at the end of February, then return to the Middle East for the Abu Dhabi desert. Challenge in March.
Although those years of success may give a different person an inflated ego, Quintero wins with the grace of a champion and the eagerness of a child to convey his feeling for the sport and to be a bridge between veterans and recruits.
“I like talking to the younger generation because they are the future of the sport,” Quintero said. “When I’m in my twenties and thirties, these kids are going to be here smoking me. The older generation has so much to learn and I want to share this knowledge with the younger generation.
Quintero had to establish these relationships on his own, so he tries to pave the way for the new culture. It even helps with entry fees for young people brave enough to step on camera and explain why they are running.
“There are now 20, 30 or 40 kids who are all between 14 and 15 years old, and they’re all friends, and they’re all running together,” Quintero said.
Already breaking records and knocking down walls – not too bad for a teenager. It will be a wonder to see what Quintero has in store for the sport over the next 10 years.
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