Seth Quintero is a 19-year-old San Marcos native. He just got back from Saudi Arabia, where he competed in the Dakar Rally, which is kind of a big deal.
“It really is the Olympics of off-road,” says Quintero.
His Red Bull OT3 breezed through the first day with comfortable wins. But, in Stage 2, he lost a pair of differential boxes, immobilizing the car. After waiting for support crew to tow him in, Seth had lost an insurmountable 10 hours.
“I believe we got back about 4:30 the next morning and had to race again at 8:05 so it was definitely a little rough,” says Quintero.
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For a second the thought of packing up and going home crossed his mind. It did not stick around for very long.
“It was kind of hard to gather myself mentally because, we’re out of the race. I don’t really know why I’m here anymore. But, I think all the calls and texts from everybody back home really kept me going and I ended up winning a few too many stages.”
He won Stage 3 on basically no sleep then chased that with wins in Stages 4 and 5.
“I think after, like, the 3rd win in a row I started getting a little nervous like, man, I can’t let this thing go now so I think the pressure really helped out.”
Quintero didn’t lose again, winning a staggering 12 of 13 stages to shatter the record for most in a single Dakar Rally. Along the way he stole just about every headline in the racing world.
In fact, more people know about his wins record than know who won the actual race (that would be Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez, who is 27 years older than Seth).
“That’s definitely a touchy subject. Chaleco Lopez was the winner. I went and shook his hand at the end of the race. I almost felt guilty winning all the stages because it pulled a lot from what he did. No discredit to what he did at all. I won all the stages except for one and my teammate won ended up winning that one. (Lopez) won the overall rally, he just really played it smart so a lot of respect to him.”
Now that he knows he can not just compete, but dominate at the biggest sand dune event on earth, might he be able to pull off a clean sweep, going 13-for-13 in stage wins?
“It’s going to be challenging. The competition’s not getting any easier. Even my teammates, when I was trying to go for the record, they’re not making it easy on me. They weren’t worried about me breaking a record they were worried about them winning races so it wasn’t easy at all.”
Seth spent most of 2021 preparing for the Dakar Rally. Being an overnight international racing superstar has thrust him into the spotlight like never before. He’s trying to remind himself to act his age a little bit more.
“I still feel like a 19-year-old kid from San Marcos who wants to go surf, snowboard, whatever, and be a normal kid. Racing has pulled away from being a kid for a very long time and I don’t really feel much like a kid, at least for the past few years I haven’t. That’s one thing I’m going to try and change this year, is have a lot more fun; have a lot more relaxed year. Last year was pretty hectic and mentally challenging so this year I want to take a step back, ride my dirt bike, have some fun and try to change it up.”
Until it’s time to race again, of course. Then Seth Quintero is all business … and probably in first place.