Written by April Thorne, Edited by Alexandra Campos
Seth Quintero is a 19-year-old UTV rally racer who is sponsored by Redbull Motorsports. His list of achievements include winning the UTV Junior World Championship at 12 years old, entering his first Dakar rally at 17 years old, becoming the youngest ever Dakar rally stage winner at 18 and finally winning a record breaking 12 out of 13 stages this year at the Dakar Rally held in Saudi Arabia.
April: Motorsport, it’s not really a common sport, on top of that, rallying is not a common option in the motorsport world, and finally we narrow down to UTV, how did you get into UTV rally racing specifically?
Seth: Me getting into UTV’s dated back to probably 2008 I’d say. My uncle actually works for a fabrication shop building UTV’s, so I was always around them. Seeing the cars and not only the cars but the dirt bikes really interested me. I started to ride dirt bikes when I was about ten years old but unfortunately my dad got in a bad crash when I was really young. After that my parents got me off of dirt bikes, and they said, “We don’t want you getting hurt.” Then at the end of 2013, they bought me a small UTV called a Polaris RZR 170. I did some local racing and I had fun. I then entered the world championships in 2015 and won that, and ever since then I’ve been trying to win everything.
April: That’s amazing, you were twelve, right?
Seth: Yeah, I was twelve.
April: Onto the next question, Redbull is your sponsor. How did they recognise you?
Seth: That kind of plays into the story as well. So, after I won the world championship in 2015, I went out to the Mint 400 which is the biggest offroad America race in all of history. Accompanied by my buddy Joey Di, I had my car on display- trophies on it. It is what it is you know? And someone walked up to me, and we were having a normal conversation, I was 12 years old at the time, shook their hand and smiled. I was like, cool, he wants to talk this is cool, and he ended up handing me a card and I flipped it over and it said Redbull, so I immediately ran to my mom. She then put it in her purse so that she wouldn’t lose it. So yeah, that’s how that all started.
April: I got into watching rally racing around three years ago and I was like: ‘This Seth Quintero guy, how on earth is he doing this?’ And then I looked up your age. I couldn’t believe you were only a year older than me, it had me questioning my life choices, like what am I doing with my life?
Seth: I’m in a really weird spot in my life where I was forced to grow up really fast. That is one thing that I try to remember, ‘Hey, you were forced to grow up really fast, it’s time to take a step back and try and be a kid every once in a while.’ Because I spend months at a time away from home. My sister’s just having kids and my parents are grandparents. I remind myself that I need to remember where I came from and have some fun. I often go months without seeing my friends, it sucks but I love racing.
April: Can you explain the emotions of becoming the youngest ever Dakar stage winner and breaking the record for most Dakar stage wins this year?
Seth: I think last year when I became the youngest ever to win a stage- it’s kind of hard to put into words. It was one of those moments that you’ll never forget. I had worked a very long time leading up to that point. I had a lot of haters and doubters that were telling me I wasn’t going to be able to do it because I was 18 at the time. When I first signed with the team, I was 16 and my first Dakar rally I attended was at 17. A lot of haters were back in the United States, and they would say, ‘We’re American, we don’t do that kind of stuff.’ I said, ‘You just wait, I’m going to go out there and try hold down that spot.’ Winning that first stage when I was 18- I can’t even describe it. I can’t wait to tell my grandchildren one day.
April: What about when you broke the record for most Dakar stage wins this year?
Seth: This year’s Dakar was probably the most heart breaking but most rewarding Dakar. I won 12 out of 13 stages, but I didn’t win the overall because we had a front and rear gear failure. So that was one of the greatest moments of my racing career winning all those stages, most of them back-to-back, but also the most heart breaking because if my front gear and rear gear held on for just 30 more kilometres, we could have swept the whole thing. We were leading by I think 9 minutes when my car broke.
April: I honestly think we were all disappointed by that, didn’t you have a recent problem with your break line?
Seth: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that car had a bunch of problems, like I never really talked about it too much, but one of the days. There’s brake bleeders on the calibre and a brake bleeder backed off fully- I forgot what stage this is, stage ten? Nine or ten and the brake bleeder completely backed off and when I pressed the brakes, I lost all the brake fluid. So, racing through the dunes for the last 150 Kilometres going through the rocks and silt with when I say I had zero brakes, I mean I had zero brakes. I was pumping the breaks and we weren’t slowing down, but we won the stage, so I guess it’s a pretty cool story now that it’s over.
April: Rewarding in the end, but it seems like a very stressful situation at the time.
Seth: I actually noticed it in a refuelling zone, but you’re not allowed to work on a car during refuel. I was sitting there thinking, that calibre looks wet, and I’m looking at it and then I look at the screw and I’m like, ’Oh no,’ I could see threads coming out of it. Soon, maybe 5 kilometres later after I restarted, they were gone. I probably should have pulled over and just fixed it, but I knew that the guy behind me was like 20 seconds behind me and it was a really, really fast stage, so I didn’t want to waste 45 seconds to a minute fixing it, but we ended up winning that stage by I think 11 minutes.
April: Well, you won it, that’s all that matters.
Seth: I honestly thought I was gonna die a couple of times.
April: One of the most common questions asked in interviews is what is the hardest thing about racing, but I want to ask you what is the easiest?
Seth: That’s harder than what’s the hardest. Nothing is easy in rally; I can’t say that. I think the easiest for me is finding a flow. I’m really good at finding a flow, so if I set a pace for myself, I can hold that pace all day long without making a mistake. That is the one thing I can handle. I think the endurance part is the easiest part for me. It’s more mental than anything, it’s all a mental game. I feel as if I’m pretty strong mentally because of all the stuff that I’ve had to go through at such a young age. The mental side of things has come a lot easier for me.
April: You recently attended the Formula One Miami Grand Prix. How was that?
Seth: Formula One in Miami was rad, just the amount of money they spent there and the amount of recognition that they get. The pride that the teams have to the technology that goes into the cars is amazing. When you’re an athlete in motorsport, you can understand what goes on behind the scenes, it’s so much to take in and I have so much respect for those teams because they put in a crazy amount of work.
April: What is your pre-race hype song if you have one?
Seth: I definitely listen to songs pre-race, but there’s not just one song, every day is a different one. Oh my gosh, wow, this is kind of weird that I remember this. At the start line of the 2015 UTV world championships when I won it, my dad was trying to calm me down in the lot and he played Fireball by Pitbull in my headset. So, I guess if I had to give a song, it’s not by any means my favourite song or hype up song, but that was the original pump-up song.
April: Are there any new and upcoming projects we need to keep an eye out for?
Seth: A lot of projects in mind, the Andalucia Rally is coming up in a few weeks’ time, and I’ll be there trying to grab a couple of points for the championship, so that is one thing to look out for. Vegas to Reno is the longest offroad race in America, that’s gonna be a fun one, I’ll be there. Summer’s not too busy, which is nice because I haven’t had a summer off in a long time, so I get to ride dirt bikes, BMX, go mountain bike, go surf, go skate, and fish.