Street Illegal: Two Young Champs Talk Pressure, Preparation, and Racing Without a License

What does it take to become a world-class racer, before you’re legally old enough to drive? We spoke with two young racing champions — Seth Quintero (age 19) and Jack Olliges (age 14) — to see if we could crack their prodigal codes.

In 2014, Seth Quintero — a bright, lanky fifth-grader from San Marcos, CA — won the youth division at the UTV World Championship. In 2015, he did it again. He was 12 years old, and a world-champion twice over. But he was only getting started. In 2019, he ran a near-perfect campaign, collecting trophies everywhere he went. Last year, he competed in his first Dakar Rally, breaking another youngest-ever winner record. In the 2022 running of the Dakar, he headed to the Arabian desert again to push himself even further, winning eleven out of twelve race stages. His remarkable showing broke a stage-win record that had been held for 28 years.

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Seth Quintero (USA) for Red Bull off-road Junior Team USA races during stage 3 of Rally Dakar 2022 from Al Artawiyah to Al Qaisumah, Saudi Arabia on January 04, 2022

Photo from: RedBull Content Pool

Meanwhile, after a decade of cheering on his dad from the sidelines, Jack Olliges was ready to take his seat behind the wheel. By the end of his first full racing season in 2019, he was standing on the podium at the Mint 400, having beaten dozens of competitors well above his age. He was 11 years old, and he wasn’t playing around. Two years later, and Jack was on that podium again this year at the 2021 Mint 400. This time, standing at the very top. 

Decades younger than most of their competitors, how did these two young racers — too young to even drive to the corner store to buy some gum — get so fast and so good so quickly? We asked them both: what does it take?

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Photo credit: @binkdesigns

It Takes An Early Start 

Seth was four years old when he first rode a dirt bike. Jack couldn’t walk when he attended his first race. Both boys, thanks to the passion and support of their families from a young age, grew up alongside engines — the tools that would one day become their whole lives.

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Photo from: RedBull Content Pool

Seth: When I was a kid, my uncle worked for a company that built UTVs, so he always had a few of them around, as well as the people who loved them. These were my role models. I think I was eleven when my parents finally got me one for Christmas. I loved it, and driving it quickly became second nature.

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Photo credit: @binkdesigns

It Takes A Supportive Pit Crew (aka Mom and Dad)

To be a great young racer, you need support, encouragement, and inspiration from peers and mentors. For both of these racers, that came from their close family. Whether you’re growing up in a UTV garage like Seth, or you have a whole family of racers like Jack, having a close, supportive “Pit Crew” behind your career is a major key to success. For Jack, that family extends beyond his parents, including a community of racing talent that he grew up alongside.

Jack: On top of all the support I’ve received from my parents to get started in racing, they’ve also connected me with some really talented drivers who I’ve had the chance to take driving lessons and get advice from. I’ve built so many relationships over the years by going to races with my family. They’re a massive part of my success.

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Photo from: RedBull Content Pool, Photo credit: @binkdesigns

It Takes Obsessive Prep

A great racer is one who is so prepared, they remain unphased when the unexpected happens. This trick is tough to pull off when years of experience are not on your side. But youth has its advantages, too. A young racer isn’t yet set in their ways, and a little flexibility can go a long way out in the dirt. That agility, paired with some serious race preparation, is a winning combination. 

Seth: For off-road racing, the biggest factor is your prep. There's so much that can go wrong with your equipment, so you have to have a lot of knowledge about fixing your car as well as driving it. I am my own full-time mechanic. I've learned the ins and outs of these cars, down to the frame. I can build a motor. I can take a UTV apart and then put it back together.

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Photo from: RedBull Content Pool

It Takes Fuel and Focus

To be a champion, your life must revolve around racing. The training, the travel, and the vehicles each demand financial resources as well as long hours of hard work. For both these racers, that has meant a lot of missed family moments, long-distance friendships, and skipped-over parts of what makes up a typical childhood. The obvious trade-offs are replaced by enormous opportunities. These young men learned a big lesson very early: you get out what you put in. 

Jack: My family eats dinner with our crew chief about three times a week. We discuss upcoming races and brainstorm about how we can improve at the next race. My dad, who knows every course by heart, is full of reminders about this section of rocks or that bed of silt. We are constantly talking about racing. And when we’re not talking, we’re working.

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Photo credit: @binkdesigns

It Takes a Dream with Direction

Both Seth and Jack are determined young men who aren’t just out to have fun and look cool. They’re certainly not in it for money, either. They each have smart, specific end-goals in mind. Jack is out to become the youngest-ever winner of the Baja 1000. Seth, a few years older, has another community layer to his dreams. He wants to live up to his own talent as a person and to inspire people from all backgrounds to pursue his sport.

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Photo from: RedBull Content Pool

Seth: I didn't come from a wealthy family by any means, but with a little bit of luck, craziness, and determination, I have proven that you can get anything done. I’m building to be a better person in general, not just a better racer. I want to live up to the role model status that I've been fortunate enough to achieve in the eyes of the younger kids. It’s a blessing to inspire others to follow their dreams, and it’s one I don’t take lightly.

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Photo credit: @binkdesigns

So, is there a prodigal code? 

Maybe. 

Jack and Seth were blessed with the right minds and the right dreams, and they were brought up in the right homes nearby the right supportive racing communities. But these variables, while aligned in their favor, didn’t hand them success. They merely cracked open up a window of opportunity. Opportunity seized and pursued with whole, dedicated hearts. 

Those hearts — full of unbound enthusiasm for the sport of racing — are what really make these two special. They love what they do, and they love doing it well, which makes them relentless in the pursuit of their next podium. That’s what it takes to be a champion, no matter your age.

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