American trio Blade Hildebrand, Seth Quintero and Mitch Guthrie Jr. have been announced as the first intake for the new Red Bull Off-Road Junior Program in 2020. Here is all you need to know:
Hildebrand, Quintero and Guthrie Jr. will drive under the stars and stripes banner of Red Bull Off-Road Team USA with January’s Dakar Rally their first challenge. Hildebrand and Guthrie Jr. will race the OT3 by Overdrive in Saudi Arabia with the SxS’s fearsome 1000cc rear-mounted turbo engine producing 177 horsepower and 290Nm of torque in its FIA version.
The world’s most fearsome off-road race will provide a stern test as will other events such as the Silk Way Rally, Morocco Rally and Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. They plan to race the Mint 400, Baja 500, Vegas to Reno and more in their native North America as well to fast-track their development into off-road champions.
Californian Hildebrand, 21, is a Dakar champion after securing the OP.1 class in 2019 and will also be aiming to add to his two wins at the Laughlin Desert Classic.
He admitted: “Dakar is the toughest race I’ve ever endured. There’s no way to completely prepare your body, physically or mentally. It’s like putting 12 Baja 1000s together in 12 days. 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.”
Glendora native Guthrie Jr. will make his Dakar debut in January and can already boast wins at the Baja 1000 (2017), Mint 400 (2017, 2019) and King of the Hammers (2018, 2019). He will also drive the OT3 by Overdrive at all the international rallies, but will represent Red Bull Off-Road Team USA in a Polaris RZR Turbo SxS when Stateside.
The 23-year-old revealed: “I think that in 2020 and beyond this program is going to really raise a lot of awareness for people in the USA, letting them know what international racing is all about. And it’s also going to build a lot of hype here for Dakar. The initial test we did with this program was in Morocco, then we tested in France and did some training in Andorra where Cyril Despres lives.”
Quintero won the youth UTV World Championship aged just 11 and recently made history by becoming the youngest ever driver to win the UTV Pro class in five Best In The Desert races. He will also race a Polaris RZR Turbo at USA races (Pro Production N/A class) and get behind of the wheel of an OT3 for international rallies once he turns 18.
The 17-year-old said: “Having the opportunity to work with the best equipment and best people is definitely going to help me in my career in 2020 and beyond.”
They will also benefit from a mentor scheme under five-time Dakar bike winner Despres that has proven so successful for the likes of F1 driver Max Verstappen with the Red Bull Junior Team in open wheel racing.
Quintero added: “We’ve already got to hang out with Cyril. He is a legend, but he made us feel really comfortable. We were able to talk with him about any issues that we had.”