The goal of the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Program is to scout, develop and grow the next generation of off-road champions. The three stars of the future representing the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Program in 2020 are Blade Hildebrand (age 21), Mitch Guthrie Jr. (age 23), and Seth Quintero (age 17).
Red Bull Off-Road Team USA off-roaders will travel the world in 2020 to compete in iconic races all over the planet. The USA team plans to race the familiar Mint 400, Baja 500, Vegas to Reno and more, but that is only the beginning. These young drivers will race international cross-country events such as the Silk Way Rally, Morocco Rally, Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, and the Dakar Rally.
“Red Bull Off-Road Team USA is a team that is going to allow for young kids like me to really progress in the sport,” Quintero said. “Having the opportunity to work with the best equipment and having the best people around me is definitely going to help me in my career in 2020 and beyond. For me to be chosen for this team at 17-years-old is a real honor.”
Time To Go Racing
The first appointment for Red Bull Off-Road Team USA will be the toughest rally of them all, the Dakar Rally. Blade Hildebrand and Mitch Guthrie Jr. will both be in Saudi Arabia racing the purpose-built OT3 by Overdrive. The OT3 is the first prototype Side-by-side (SxS) machine ever constructed specifically for rally-raid and cross country. During testing its fearsome 1000cc rear-mounted turbo engine produced an impressive 177 horsepower and 290Nm of torque in its FIA version.
Traveling across the globe to far-flung and exotic destinations such as Russia, Morocco, China, and Saudi Arabia the three young Americans will learn really quick what it takes to compete at these high levels. These races are like nothing they have done before in the states and they will truly test them as drivers.
Even though Blade Hildebrand has just turned 21 years old, he’s already a Dakar champion. The off-roader from California’s Yucca Valley won the OP.1 class at the 2019 Dakar and is ready to jump in his brand-new OT3 side-by-side (SxS) machine for another shot at glory.
“Having the right backing – the right group of people who want to see you succeed – is a big part of it. I think the main goal of everyone on the team is to step up,” Hildebrand said. “I don’t want to sound cocky, but I want to go out there and win. That’s the ultimate goal.”
The OP.1 race at Dakar covers a vehicle category based on the US off-road race SCORE series that includes the Baja 1000.
Hildebrand will also race the OT3 package at races in the United States next year and aiming to add to his two wins at the Laughlin Desert Classic. He is also looking to take full advantage of the opportunities being part of the Red Bull Off-Road Team USA will give him.
Guthrie Jr. will be making his Dakar debut in 2020. The native of Glendora, California is already an established name on the SxS racing scene in North America thanks to a stack of career wins; including the Baja 1000 (2017), Mint 400 (2017, 2019) and King of the Hammers (2018, 2019).
“I think that in 2020 and beyond this program is going to really raise a lot of awareness for people in the United States, letting them know what international racing is all about,” Guthrie Jr. explained. “And it’s also going to build a lot of hype here for Dakar.”
Guthrie Jr. will also race the OT3 by Overdrive at the Dakar and other international cross-country rallies but will represent Red Bull Off-Road Team USA in a Polaris RZR Turbo SxS when competing in North America. The turbocharged Polaris RZR has proven successful across a range of North American desert races, thanks in no small part to its 168 horsepower and cooling system designed to give reliable performance in harsh conditions.
The third member of Red Bull Off-Road Team USA is a bona fide phenom on the off-road racing scene. Quintero is a resident of San Marcos, California won the youth UTV World Championship at age 11. He’s added two Pro UTV titles to his resume as well being crowned a World Off-Road Championship Series (WORCS) winner twice. He’s recently made history by becoming the youngest ever driver to win the UTV Pro class in five Best In The Desert races.
More Than A Program, But A Mentorship
Being part of a professional team set-up, members of the Junior Program will also benefit from a mentoring scheme that has proven successful with the Red Bull Junior Team in open-wheel racing. Five-time Dakar Rally bike champion and two-time Silk Way Rally car champion Cyril Despres will be on hand to coach and advise the drivers in the Junior Program.
“I’ll be an open book for the young drivers,” Despres said. “I’ll listen to any questions and give my input on strategy, driving, navigation, and training. I’ve been with the young guys in Morocco, France, and the USA, showing them how to identify the dangers that exist in rally-raid.”
“I’ve been in the OT3 with them all, sometimes I’ll drive and sometimes them,” Despres continued. “This way I pass on my tips and observe anything that needs to be worked on. These are all talented drivers who have already achieved a lot, but rally-raid is new and there are things they can learn.”
“Having Cyril Despres as a part of the program is awesome,” Hildebrand explained. “He knows what it takes to win at Dakar, and for him to give us that information helps so much with the mental side. But also having Red Bull and Overdrive behind us helps that much more. Having the right backing – the right group of people who want to see you succeed – is a big part of it. I think the main goal of everyone on the team is to step up. I don’t want to sound cocky, but I want to go out there and win. That’s the ultimate goal.”
The OT3 SxS vehicle that will be used has been developed in cooperation with Overdrive Racing, the team that has successfully collaborated with Nasser Al-Attiyah during the Qatari’s Dakar Rally victories and FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies events.
“I think the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Program is an amazing project,” Al-Attiyah explained. “Every sport needs to see the next generation coming through.”
“We’ve already got to hang out with Cyril Despres,” Quintero said. “He was a legend standing in front of us, but he made us feel really comfortable. We were able to talk with him about any issues that we had. Also having Nasser around was a blessing. Again, one of the biggest legends I’ve ever met, and he actually came by the shop after winning a stage just to check on us and see how we were doing! That will stick with me forever.”
Want to keep in the loop on how the three young American drivers will be doing? The progress can be followed by watching Destination Dirt on Red Bull TV. This multi-episode series will follow these young drivers throughout the season as they are thrown into a brand-new level of competition.