Seth Quintero aims to break Dakar Rally stage victory record

Before launching an improbable charge into a lightweight prototype – putting him on track to break a Dakar Rally victory record – Seth Quintero had the idea to retire altogether.

Having lost nearly 17 hours on the track, waiting in the freezing cold of the Saudi Arabian desert for a rescue in the middle of the night and facing the reality of another 10 days of racing with no hope of an overall title, it is understandable that quitting smoking seemed like a problem. decent option.

“I want to be honest, sure it crossed my mind to be towed when it’s freezing cold and at 2 or 3 in the morning,” Quintero told NBC Sports. “I definitely wanted to give up, but I learned that giving up is not part of my vocabulary. It’s not in my mental state. Unfortunately, we had a similar problem last year. I have learned that giving up is not an option. And I never will.

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Perseverance has since paid off for the native of San Marcos, California, who returned to the Dakar bivouac at 4 a.m. after the mechanical disaster of stage 2. After an hour or two of sleep, the 19-year-old was on the start line of stage 3 at 8 a.m. in his OT3-02.

Just under 3 hours later, the Red Bull Off Road Junior Team rider had a new checkered flag in Stage 3 and a new goal for this year’s Dakar.

“It was a really great feeling and it woke me up when I got this victory after these difficulties,” said Quintero. “I hope we can keep getting more wins and keep the mental game strong.

“The never give up thing is obviously something that I live by… for some reason, something mentally within me, I can’t say no and I can’t give up. It’s not in my blood. is not what my parents taught me Obviously, these stage victories definitely help me to start again.

Quintero is unbeatable since the broken differential from step 2. He won five consecutive stages while overcoming even more mechanical problems to bring his total of stage wins to seven despite being placed 24e and still almost 16 hours late.

Although he took part in the Dakar Rally 2022 with the dream of becoming the youngest category winner in Dakar, Quintero now has a chance to make the history of the prestigious endurance race in another way.

If he manages to win at least four of the remaining five stages, he will cross the bar for stages won in a Dakar rally.

“I hadn’t even thought about what the record was (for the stage victory in Dakar), then I got a message on Instagram saying I was on my way,” said Quintero. “Which woke me up again. It was really hard to mentally pull myself together to run everyday knowing that there really was no full-fledged goal of going out (because) we couldn’t run for the overall standings. So yeah, I’m just trying to keep finding motivation and every little bit helps. “

Even more motivating, he will only have 13 moves (12 stages plus the prologue) to mark the occasion. The record for 10 victories was set in a Dakar rally in 17 stages, four more chances that Quintero will have.

“I really want to win the rest of the stages, regardless of the record,” said Quintero, who also won the prologue and the first stage. 30 (kilometers) of stage 2.

“It sounds really realistic. We have put in some time over the past two years. Non-stop preparation, spending months outside the country. I really feel like it’s realistic. It will certainly not be easy. These last stages get really, really difficult. Really rocky. It will be who can be the smartest driver to the finish line.

Seth Quintero takes a break during a November test of his lightweight prototype in Dubai (Marcin Kin / Red Bull Content Pool).

Quintero honed his skills through countless practice sessions from 4pm to midnight with his co-driver Dennis Zenz, mainly in Morocco and Dubai (but also a few races in Italy and Spain). Because this is the prototype class, there are a lot of bugs to be fixed with the untested technology.

“It’s been definitely pretty crazy three months,” Quintero said. “From early September until now, I’ve been home for about three weeks.”

The hard work paid off in a fierce stage 6 victory in which he lost the brakes for the final 180 kilometers.

In order to slow down while driving through the desert to a top speed of 90 mph, Quintero rocked the OT3 side to side on the sand and used engine braking via the gearbox.

Seth Quintero is chasing a stage 4 victory, one of the American’s five consecutive wins in the 2022 Dakar Rally (Flavien Duhamel / Red Bull Content Pool).

Compounding the braking problem, Quintero then lost all-wheel drive, which left him “like driving in mud” trying to scale the dunes in an underpowered car.

Still, he still finished with more than 11 minutes ahead of teammate Cristina Gutierrez Herrero for another victory that impressed his rivals.

“I definitely got accessories from two different competitors, which is nice to hear,” Quintero said. “I’m in a different state of mind than what they’re trying to do for 12 stages. I really compete day in and day out. So I think that also comes into play with our success. I’m ready to go there everyday, all day. I have nothing to lose. I really only have something to gain.

There was a lot of respect to amass, however, in a bivouac that includes some of the biggest names in off-road and rally history.

Despite being a generation or two younger than these legends, Quintero aspires to reach the T1 car class (“maybe another year or so”) to compete with Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Loeb, Stefan Peterhansel and Nasser al. -Attiyah.

“I’m definitely a little younger than a lot of the guys I race against,” Quintero said. “I had the chance to become very good friends with Sainz, Loeb, Peterhansel, Nasser. They’ve all been really amazing, humble guys. All the people I have admired for a very long time.

“It was nice to come back to the bivouac and talk to them and really learn. I’m just trying to soak up all the information I can. Because they won’t be here to drive the car forever, so hopefully I can take the next step and they can help me get there.

The best lessons he’s learned so far?

“One thing that really stood out for me about this race is’ Go really slow in the slow and really fast in the fast,” said Quintero. “From Carlos, I definitely learned to seize all the opportunities that I can have.

“And also my parents, they just taught me never to say no. It’s a very good trait to have – and a very bad trait to have. Because I am ready to work. You can’t really break me down, but you can overwork me from time to time.

Switching from off-road motorcycles to UTVs a decade ago, Quintero quickly rose through the ranks and caught the attention of Red Bull by winning the youth class of a world championship in 2014.

He became the youngest driver to win multiple desert races in the UTV Pro NA class, and he had six impressive victories in 2019, including the Best in the Desert Pro Class overall championship, the MINT 400, the Parker 250 and the Silver State. 300.

While maintaining a 4.2 GPA in high school, which he described as “one of my greatest accomplishments.”

“School is everything for me and for my parents too,” said Quintero, whose mother and father both work in construction. “They paid for my running program for a very long time, obviously. And they told me that if I didn’t get good grades, I didn’t run. I’m very proud to be able to be full time at Mission Hills High School and then also be a full time driver, mechanic, team leader and all that. It was a crazy race, but one of my biggest accomplishments.

Seth Quintero already became the youngest stage winner in Dakar Rally history last year as an 18-year-old rookie (Marcelo Maragni / Red Bull Content Pool).

“We were just a blue collar family that the only thing we know how to do is work and somehow we came out lucky, and here we travel the world and have fun running.”

And make history. After becoming the youngest stage winner in Dakar history last year, Quintero has yet another record to break beyond the stage victory bar.

“It’s our goal to be the youngest person to have won the Dakar since we started this trip,” he said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do that in the past two years, but we still have plenty of time. I’m only 19 and plan to stay here as long as possible. We will keep trying and keep charging.

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