SAN MARCOS — In the middle of the desert, 19-year-old Seth Quintero had the choice of quitting running or stepping on the gas.
On the second stage of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia in January, the San Marcos native led the Red Bull Off-Road Junior team before his Red Bull OT3 racer broke down after losing a pair of differential boxes , which cost him 10 hours and took him out of contention for the overall title.
As difficult as it was to accept defeat – Quintero and his co-driver Dennis Zenz finished ninth overall – the Mission Hill High School graduate still managed to make international headlines and history. rally races after winning 12 of the 13 stages of the Dakar Rally, the most ever in a single rally.
“This year I came in knowing I had the confidence, the speed and the testing and training to win the race,” Quintero said. “That’s exactly what we tried to do. The first two days we won in style and in stage 2 we had a mechanical breakdown which cost us around 10 hours. I really didn’t want to go through the race for no reason, so I took it day by day and ended up breaking the record.
Quintero competes in two different styles of racing – desert off-road and rally-raid – the latter being an international circuit with stops in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Morocco and Spain. Quintero is third overall in the T3 standings, 10 points behind compatriot Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team Cristina Gutierrezaccording to Red Bull.
Quintero’s racing journey into the desert began at an early age. At the age of four, Quintero began riding dirt bikes and quads in the desert with his family.
Over the years, Quintero finally started competing in UTV (utility vehicle) competitions at the age of 10 and quickly rose through the world ranks. Although he wanted to go dirt biking, Quintero was put in the car after his father was injured in a bicycle accident.
“I grew up riding mountain bikes all my life,” he said. “I wanted to be a professional dirt bike racer. My parents made me get off the bike and they didn’t want me to get hurt. They put me in an off-road car when I was 11 and I never turned back.
Quintero was a prodigy. At 12, he won the youth class at the UTV World Championships. After working his way through other circuits before signing with Red Bull at 16.
In 2018, Quintero added desert racing to his resume in the United States, with second-place finishes in the MINT 400 and Pro UTV Vegas race in Reno when he was just 15 years old. However, he was not allowed to race internationally until he was 18.
On his eighteenth birthday, Quintero was the youngest stage winner of the Dakar Rally in 2021.
“Desert races in the United States are one-day races between 150 and 500 miles,” Quintero said of the different styles. “They have much rougher terrain and don’t see a lot of sand dunes.”
Currently, Quintero is focused on the World Rally Raid Championship at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge where stages range from 217 kilometers (134 miles) to 318 (197 miles). Quintero said rally races can last anywhere from four to 12 days, driving up to 12 hours a day.
Quintero was recently honored by Mayor Rebecca Jones and the San Marcos City Council in a Feb. 22 ceremony at City Hall alongside Super Bowl LVI champion and San Marcos High grad Terrell Burgess.