San Marcos Teen Takes On Tough Off-Road Race In Saudi Arabia
While some 18-year-olds are just finishing up their first semester in college, Seth Quintero is in Saudi Arabia preparing to take on some of the world’s best off-road drivers in one of the toughest multi-day races, the 2021 Dakar Rally on Jan. 3.
Growing up in San Marcos, Quintero never thought, as a small-town kid, he’d be participating in Dakar as one of its youngest drivers. It was a dream of his as a kid.
“Well, I still see myself as a kid, but (it's something) you dream of as a kid and (may) not always come true," he said. "But luckily, I'm super blessed and thankful to have this one come true.”
Quintero, a 2020 Mission Hills High School graduate, will be participating as a junior driver for Red Bull in the 12-day race through the desert of Saudi Arabia and along the Red Sea against some of the sport’s biggest names.
“So, just being able to be a part of this race and have so much talent around me is definitely a little bit intimidating,” he said.
Having recently turned 18, Quintero has amassed quite a résumé. He was a world champion before he was old enough to legally drive. He won the youth division of the UTV World Championship in 2014 when he was 11 years old. In 2015, he took home the UTV World Champion and World Off-Road Championships Series titles.
Quintero started racing utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) — a beefier version of an all-terrain vehicle — when he was 10 years old. But he had always been a part of the motorsports world. His family would often go off-roading in the desert in Southern California. He first rode a quad bike when he was 4 years old.
"Honestly, before I was even born, my dad was riding dirt bikes and just so happens I got into dirt bikes, but my dad got hurt in 2009 and then my mom cut me off dirt bikes," he said.
It was around that time that he got into UTVs. Quintero's uncle, who was working at an off-roading car fabrication shop in San Marcos, built him his first car. From then on, things took off.
Quintero's uncle, who now has his own shop, has built every one of his race cars since. In fact, his racing team is a family affair. While Quintero is the chief mechanic, his dad helps whenever he can and mom takes care of the emails in her spare time. He credits his family for his success.
"It's a super cool to have a family-based team and to see it grow," he said. "It's definitely a different race program. We're not a million-dollar team like all these other race teams out there."
Not many teenagers are able to take on some of the best off-road drivers in the world in one of its toughest races. It’s something that even Quintero said he has to take a step back every once in a while to take it all in.
"It's definitely been a wild ride and I'm blessed to be able to do it.”