American KTM factory off-road racer Kurt Caselli died during the 46th running of the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 off-road motorcycle race. He was 30 years old.
Hailing from Palmdale, California Caselli was competing on the 2x KTM factory squad, teamed with Kendall Norman, Mike Brown and Ivan Ramirez. Caselli was nearing the finish of the 833-mile contest when he crashed at approximately 4:55 pm PST.
The KTM team was leading the Baja 1000 race, when Caselli went down. The live feed from SCORE Racing indicated the incident occurred at the 796-mile marker, with a helicopter being sent to the scene. A SCORE bulletin announcing the death states that Caselli "died of serious trauma incurred when he apparently lost control of his KTM motorcycle in a sandy, high-speed section."
“Our desert racing family has lost a very special person in Kurt,” said SCORE President Roger Norman in the press statement. “Kurt was a superb racer and this is a tragedy that affects us all. We extend our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers to the Caselli family. Their loss is immeasurable and we grieve with them.”
Unconfirmed reports on Twitter initially indicated the accident was due to a booby trap set-up by locals in an effort to disable competitors. After KTM recovered Caselli's bike, however, the team found indications of a collision with an animal, "which apparently caused the crash."
A decorated champion, Caselli was a pillar in the motorcycle racing world having won the WORCS championship three times in ’07, ’10 and ’11 and most recently claimed the 2013 AMA Hare & Hound Championship. Caselli also competed for Team USA at the ISDE, including a silver medal in 2013.
In recent years, Caselli had turned his attentions to the Baja desert races and international rally races. The Californian competed with the Factory KTM squad with plans to contest the 2014 Dakar Rally.
“The loss of Kurt is immense to the sport, our team and to our family," said Factory FMF/KTM Team Manager Antti Kallonen. "Kurt has been on KTM his entire professional career. Even in the early years he brought something special to the off-road environment by bringing a leadership role like no other. He had the uncanny ability to bring a team together for efforts big and small. Professional motorcycle racing is always considered an individual sport, but Kurt made it a team sport. Whenever there was an opportunity to lead, help, inspire, advise or coach Kurt went into it like he went into a race—completely prepared, completely confident and knowing he could win. Kurt was the most galvanizing force I’ve ever seen. Those who knew him were lucky. Those of us who got to work with him were blessed."
"We at KTM can't put into context the loss everyone in the motorcycling community is experiencing," said Jon-Erik Burleson, President of KTM North America. "Beyond his racing successes and talent as a rider, Kurt was above all else a core member of our greater off-road family that simply can't be replaced. Kurt inspired the KTM family to keep pushing the limits of racing. He was the driving force behind our renewed efforts in Baja, Hare & Hound and the International Six Days Enduro. His work ethic, attitude and graciousness will never be matched.”
“Today we lost a KTM hero in the worst possible circumstances," said Pit Beirer, Head of KTM Motorsports: "We are shocked and saddened by this tragic news and our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to Kurt’s family. Kurt was much more than a very talented rider; he was also an exceptional team player. He represented and lived by the values and a passion for racing that lies at the very core of KTM. Our sport has lost more than a great rider; we have also lost an excellent ambassador for offroad racing.”