After conquering one of the most grueling road races the world has to offer, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team Member Seth Quintero only wants to compete more.
“I want to be the most versatile driver that I can possibly be,” Quintero said. “Instead of focusing on one thing, I want to be able to go in a trophy truck and be able to win a race. I want to go in a UTV and win a race, hop in an electric car, and win a race.”
It’s a lofty yet seemingly achievable set of goals for the fresh-faced Quintero. At only 19 years old, the driver has already achieved the performance of a lifetime at the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most challenging and grueling off-road races. Quintero made history by besting some of the most talented and experienced international riders. This led him to become the youngest competitor to set a new record of 11 stage wins in a single Dakar, breaking the record of 10 stage victories set by Pierre Lartigue during the 17-stage 1994 Dakar Rally. Speeding over sand and rock for almost two weeks and 5,000 miles, the UTV racer was able to accomplish this feat through not only hard work and self-belief, but a background based on honest effort that keeps Quintero grounded.
“I’m trying to teach the youth that everything’s possible,” Quintero said. “I came from not the wealthiest of families. My parents both work nine-to-fives. So it’s not like you’ve got to be born into money to go out and race and have fun. You’ve just got to have the best work ethic.”
This work ethic is borne out of a love of the sport for Quintero. If he’s not on the road racing, he is back home in his garage “spinning wrenches.” This ardor for anything on wheels began at 4 years old for Quintero, riding four-wheelers and off-roading with his family in the desert sands near their San Marcos, California, home.
With a family team, Quintero started racing utility task vehicles — UTVs — at age 10, with consequences rapidly getting serious.
“We’re super-competitive, and I wanted to do more and more. Things escalated pretty quickly,” Quintero said in his Red Bull bio.
At only 11 years old, Quintero clinched the 2014 youth class of the UTV World Championship, drawing notice from the Red Bull team. A year later and officially signed as a Red Bull off-roader, Quintero won the UTV World Championship. By 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, taking home the Best in Desert series championship. It was time for bigger things.
- Best Off-Road Vehicles
- Most Dangerous Auto Races
- Guide to Car-Racing Types
- Under-the-Radar Travel Destinations
The annual off-road endurance rally, run by Amaury Sport Organisation since its 1978 inception, is one of the world’s most prestigious race events. Racers ride over varied desert dirt and rocks for thousands of miles over 12 days. Hosted in Saudi Arabia since 2020, the 2022 Dakar traveled through canyons and cliffs before hugging the Red Sea coastline. Drivers then navigated stretches of dunes surrounding Riyadh before moving into the isolated, boundless sand dunes in the Arabian Peninsula’s southern Empty Quarter before returning to Jeddah on the country’s western border.
Quintero got his first taste of Dakar in 2020 before becoming the youngest stage winner when he took the Stage 6 checkered flag in 2021, racing in the T3 Lightweight Prototype class. That preparation and experience helped him to better prepare for 2022. Last year, for example, Quintero spent three months in Dubai and Morocco working out the kinks on his UTV. With only a few days break before the race, the driver was already burnt out before beginning.
“I think that’s why we were so successful this year,” Quintero said. “I took about a month and a half off from driving. I went snowboarding, rode my dirt bike, went fishing, hung out with all my friends, rode mountain bikes — just being a normal 19 year old — and when I got the Dakar, I was excited to drive.”
Ironically, a mechanical breakdown allowed Quintero that freedom within the race as well. After winning the prologue and Stage 1, Quintero’s vehicle suffered broken front and rear differentials that left him 16 hours off the overall lead and out of class title contention.
Sitting in the dark for hours, waiting for rescue in the freezing Saudi Arabian desert, Quintero considered ending his race right there, since there were another 10 days of racing ahead with no hope for an overall title. Instead, the racer refocused his goal to break Lartigue’s record. Plowing ahead with no pressure to win the entire rally, Quintero took home the top time in every subsequent stage, from three through 12.
After a quick turnaround in the States and with little time to prep his ride, Quintero will head back out the Nevada desert for an off-road race in Laughlin at the end of February and then head back to the Middle East for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in March.
While these years of success might give a different person a super-sized ego, Quintero wins with a champion’s grace and a kid’s eagerness to pass on his sentiment for the sport and be a bridge between the veterans and the rookies.
“I love talking to the younger generation because they’re the future of the sport,” Quintero said. “When I get into my twenties and thirties, these kids are gonna be out here smoking me. The older generation has so much to teach and I want to share that knowledge with the younger generation.”
Quintero had to establish these relationships on his own, so he’s trying to pave the way for the new crop. He’s even helping pay the entry fee for those youths brave enough to get on camera and explain why they’re racing.
“There’s 20, 30, or 40 kids now that are all 14 to 15 years old, and they’re all friends, and they’re all racing together,” Quintero said.
Already shattering records and breaking down walls — not too bad for a teenager. It’ll be a wonder to see what Quintero has in store for the sport over the next 10 years.
Read More: Rivian’s R1T: the All-Electric Adventure Truck With a Built-In Camp Kitchen
- BMW’s latest all-electric concept is a beach-ready scooter with a surfboard
- Everything we know about Ford’s return to Formula 1 as Red Bull’s engine partner
- 150 MPH Through the Open Desert: The Mint 400 is Back
- Porsche Cayman GT4 RS Goes Ballistic With 493-HP 911 GT3 Engine
- The Lotus Emira: The Last and the Best of Its Breed