The Red Bull Sand Scramble returned to the Imperial Sand Dunes of Southern California for the last event of the Red Bull Scramble Series for professional and amateur side-by-side (SXS) racers. The event continues to grow, attracting 96 racers, including Red Bull Junior Off-Road Team driver Seth Quintero and Mia Chapman – well more than 2021.
Throughout 2022, the Scramble SXS series has scrambled across the US in the ice and snow, up a mountain, through the high desert, and over stones. This year’s dune edition once again featured a custom-built 2.8-mile off-road course marked out with giant pylons, generally following the same natural terrain course as 2021, but with a year of shifting sand it was noticeably changed — giving the competitive edge to SXS racers with experience reading the ever-changing dunescape.
The single day event featured two SXS classes: Pro and Sportsman. SXS racing continues to be one of the most accessible and fastest growing racing platforms. Combined with Red Bull creativity, the Scramble series is proving to be exciting, fun, and a destination-worthy series of motorsports events.
The race action started with three heat races of three laps on the 2.8-mile course with the top eight finishers from each heat automatically qualified for the main event. Eight more racers from last chance qualifiers were added to the main event lineup which featured a field of 32 SXSs in each class in a five-lap final. Southern Californian and Glamis Dunes regular Corbin Leaverton won the SXS Pro category with a time of 16m2769s. Billy Slade won the Sportsman class with a total time of 18m38.55s.
The pro racing was tight and fast and impressively competitive. Leaverton came out strong, hoping to improve on his third place finish in 2021, by taking the holeshot from the starting line and spent the first three laps of the final race extending his lead before Bradbury started closing the gap. Bradbury was trading between second and third place during the first half of the race, then solidifying his second place position and took to chasing down Leaverton with less than a lap to go and even taking the lead. It was a head-to-head battle between the two drivers in the final seconds, up until the finish line, before Leaverton inched ahead of Bradbury to secure first place.
“There’s nothing like this race,” said Leaverton. “I race every type of off-road race you can race, and nothing compares to Red Bull Sand Scramble. There’s nothing like it. I’ve grown up my whole life coming to these dunes racing with buddies and everyone always thinks ‘Man, it would be fun to have a real race out here,’ and Red Bull makes it happen.”
In true Red Bull form, they also pay special attention to the culture surrounding the event. Parker Kligerman, NASCAR Xfinity driver and NBC Sports Analyst, took full advantage of a Red Bull invitation.
“I’ve been a fan of Dakar since I was a kid and even more after covering it for NBC,” said Kligerman. “Getting in a SXS and navigating the dunes gave me a better understanding and even more respect for the talent of drivers like Seth Quintero. It’s impressive to see him go full out and attack the dunes – instinctively reading the sand and knowing how it’s going to react. And to try to keep up in a lead-follow with him was a blast. He showed us what a SXS can do – heading 65mph straight into a bowl and ripping around at speed.
“The whole event felt like a video game and even a bit surreal at times,” he continued. “Music is blasting, SXSs are everywhere, they’re launching off the dunes, spectators are watching it all happen and I’m in the middle of it all. So much fun.”
Seth Quintero, who’s race day was cut short because of a mechanical issue, said, “Red Bull Sand Scramble really embraces the fun side of racing, and the grassroots side of racing. You come out to these events and you see a lot of families together and you see a lot of the local racers battling for the win. I grew up driving here in Glamis and it’s one of those places that can bite you very quickly if you don’t drive it the right way, so everyone wants to go out and win Red Bull Sand Scramble.”
SXS Pro class
1. Corbin Leaverton, 16m27.69s
2. Cody Bradbury, 16m27.99s
3. Kevin McCullough, 16m49.85s
SXS Sportsman class
1. Billy Slade, 18m38.55s
2. Zach Frausto, 18m46.15s
3. Jaxon Steele, 19m03.74s