The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich have conquered the 2023 Dakar Rally. Not only did the young squad take the first two positions in the overall T3 rankings, they also won more than half of the 14 stages contested in Saudi Arabia. These achievements are remarkable rewards for what the youth focused driver program has already accomplished in just a few short years.
One of the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team’s most recent recruits has been Austin ‘AJ’ Jones. Winner of last year’s T4 race at the Dakar, this time the 26-year-old lined up in the T3 contest for the first time. In his Can-Am Maverick alongside co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin, the Arizonian ran his own race to top the T3 rankings and make it back-to-back Dakar wins.
“A big shout out to all the team, all the work that goes on behind the scenes. We couldn’t do it without the help of those guys. My navigator Gustavo did a great job. We’ve done it, two years in a row!” – AJ Jones
Jones’s victory adds to an ever increasing list of impressive results collected by the Junior Team at the Dakar. Not only have the team broken records such as youngest stage winner, most stage wins at a rally by a single driver plus winning every stage of the 2022 Dakar, now they have claimed their first-ever overall Dakar win!
Pushing Jones hard all the way to the finish line was his fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich driver Seth Quintero. The 20-year-old Californian looked to have his hopes of a successful Dakar dashed in the first week due to technical issues and water found in the tank of his car which most probably came in from event organisation fuel. Despite these setbacks he battled back to make second spot his own.
Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz helped themselves to two stage wins along the way as they parked their Can-Am Maverick on the overall podium. You can be sure this pair will be back to fight for first place at the next edition of the Dakar.
“To finally drive through every stage of the Dakar feels amazing. It’s only 350 days until the next one so we’re going get working on that.” – Seth Quintero
If you really want to know what racing the Dakar is all about then check out the last two weeks experienced the team’s third race crew, Mitch Guthrie Jr. and co-driver Kellon Walch. This pair made a dream start to the rally in their T3-M by MCE5 Developments machine and held the overall T3 lead in the first week.
Some teething issues with the new car then saw Guthrie Jr. and Walch drop down the overall rankings. However, the duo fought back to end the 2023 Dakar with five stage wins and gathered plenty of data to help the team to develop a vehicle to race in the T3-U (Ultimate) category at next year’s Dakar.
Guthrie Jr. and Walch sacrificing their own charge at a sixth stage win of the Dakar to help out team-mate Rokas Baciuška who ran into difficult while fighting for overall victory in the T4 class highlighted the duo's team player attitude.
“We’ve got plenty more racing coming up this year to get excited about. We’ve also got our plans for the 2024 Dakar Rally.” – Mitch Guthrie Jr.
5,000 kilometres of racing spread across 14 stages have now been completed by all three of the team’s race crews. A one-two finish in the overall T3 rankings has been scored as well as a total of eight stage wins.
The ethos behind the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich is to give young, talented and hungry off-racers the chance to shine at the world’s top races. Well, they just dominated the Dakar Rally and it doesn’t get much bigger and better than that!
AJ Jones: “That last stage was pretty tough, we lost four-wheel drive before the stage even started. I’d heard there was going to be a lot of mud. I ended up getting a little stressed out in some crazy places with only two-wheel drive. But we made it through the mud and got to the finish.”
“This has been the toughest and longest Dakar that I’ve ever done. We’ve had ups and downs, but along the way we’ve tried to stay as consistent as we could. Now we’ve taken another win. Back-to-back wins at the Dakar feels pretty good.”
“A big shout out to all the team, all the work that goes on behind the scenes. We couldn’t do it without the help of those guys. My navigator Gustavo did a great job. We’ve done it, two years in a row!”
Seth Quintero: “We can look back at that one stage where we ran out of fuel to see what cost us the win, but I’m happy to be on the podium. To finally drive through every stage of the Dakar feels amazing. It’s only 350 days until the next one so we’re going get working on that.”
“The mental game was tough this year. Physically I felt great even though it really felt like the longest Dakar I’ve done. The stages were proper and they definitely sent us through some stuff that we’d never been through before.”
Mitch Guthrie Jr.: “This has been a crazy ride, so many ups and downs the whole way. At the end we can look back on five stage wins. This is the first Dakar that I’ve made it to the finish line so that feels good. On this last stage the Dakar showed again that anything can happen on every kilometre.”
“We’ve got plenty more racing coming up this year to get excited about. We’ve also got our plans for the 2024 Dakar Rally.
Selected Final T3 Overall Standings
1. AJ Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) CAN-AM 51:55:53
2. Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (GER) CAN-AM +52:05
3. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL)/François Cazalet (FRA) OT3 +01:35:42
23. Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA)/Kellon Walch (USA) MCE5 +27:58:08
Source Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team
Photo: Marcelo Maragni / Red Bull Content Pool