Red Bull Sand Scramble Invades Southern California Desert

World champion off-road racers give amateur racers a chance to beat them on the dunes

NBC Universal, Inc.

It’s extremely rare that your everyday athlete gets a chance to compete against the world’s best in a given sport. You’re not going to take batting practice off Max Scherzer or play Stephen Curry 1-on-1.

That’s one of the reasons why this weekend at the Glamis Sand Dunes in Imperial County is so unique. Desert racing enthusiasts are getting their shot to take on world champions.

“To be able to go out to Glamis and have open spectating and whoever wants to come and race, come and race, it’s gonna be nuts,” says Seth Quintero, a San Marcos native who, at the age of 19, is already one of the most accomplished desert racers in the world.

He’s the youngest person ever to win a stage at the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia. On Saturday he, along with fellow champs Mitch Guthrie Jr. and Mia Chapman, is giving weekend warriors the chance of a lifetime. Red Bull set up an official race through the Glamis Dunes. It’s that huge stretch of desert between San Diego and Yuma that’s so familiar to Southern Californians. Amazingly, this will be the first organized race event ever held there.

And it is gonna be wild.

“Honestly the weekend warriors know the place better than anybody else does,” says Quintero. “All the (pro) racers don’t get to go out there as much as we’d like to so I think there are going to be some upsets in the pro class, which is going to be awesome. I really hope somebody who’s just a local comes out and beats everybody by a mile. That would be so cool and that’s the way I see it working out.”

When amateurs get to compete against pros things can get a little dicey. There’s an understanding and etiquette shared by professionals that most people aren’t familiar with. So, things might get a little bit crazy.

“Nobody really knows what to expect,” says Chapman, a 19-year-old Ariona native who won nine Kart championships before switching to off-road. “There’s going to be those few people that push the limits probably more than they should a little bit and I think there’s definitely going to be some carnage, for sure.”

Carnage is when cars start colliding and rolling over, and it’s less a matter of if it happens then when it happens.

“I’m sure it’ll be carnage. It’ll be fun to spectate and watch and I think it’s gonna be a good time,” says Guthrie, who won the Baja 1000 as a 20-year-old. “Racing through the dunes, we’ve never done it before. All we’ve done is go out and have a good time at Glamis. Sometimes it’s almost like we’re racing so we’ve had a little taste of it but I think we can expect a little bit of carnage, for sure.”

With more than 100 entrants to the race, Quintero thinks one spot in-particular will be ripe for wrecks.

“I think the most hectic part is going to be the start. Gonna have to be careful at the start because people who’ve never raced will come to the first corner hot and end up taking out a few people. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen, hopefully everybody stays safe. So I’m definitely going to have to adjust my driving style knowing that if somebody’s going to come put it on my door and it’s not a pro it might get bad. I’ve got a couple bumpers being built for my car, a couple of Nerf bars, to make sure I’m all nice and safe out there. If someone wants to have some fun in the dunes we can get down.”

The spots to race are all filled up but anyone with a permit can go watch the carnage. For information about how to do that, click here.

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