Kurt Caselli | 1983 – 2013
America’s off-road racing star Kurt Caselli passed away Friday, Nov. 15, due to injuries sustained in a Baja 1000 crash.
The 30-year-old rider of Palmdale, Calif., was competing for the Factory FMF/Bonanza Plumbing KTM team in the famed SCORE Baja 1000 desert race when he crashed while in a leading position.
Caselli, who took two stage wins during his Dakar Rally debut in January, suffered severe head trauma, and he was transported to a hospital in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, where he later died.
Initial reports said Caselli’s accident was caused by some sort of homemade booby trap placed on the course by locals – something not unusual at the Baja 1000. But these reports are not confirmed.
KTM’s reports attribute a possible crash with an animal; KTM says the team “discovered traces on the machine that indicate he had collided with some animal, which apparently caused the crash.”
SCORE says the crash occurred at 4:30 p.m. PST Friday on “a sandy, high-speed section at approximate race-mile 792 while his team was leading in the late stages of the 883.1-mile international desert race.”
The accident is under investigation, and we will keep everyone up to date on the progress. But now is a time for mourning and reflection on one of America’s greatest off-road racing talents.
Caselli was a dominate force in stateside off-road racing, and was the 2011, 2012 and 2013 AMA National Hare & Hound Champion. Caselli, also a WORCS champion, won many International Six Days Enduro gold medals, took several first-American ISDE finishes, and was the overall victor in the ISDE E3 class in 2007. That year, he also won the AMA Sportsman of the Year award. In 2006, Caselli also competed on the championship-winning ISDE U.S. Junior Team.
In January 2013, Caselli was chosen to ride in the Dakar Rally, replacing the injured Marc Coma. Caselli would take two stage wins, but finish 31st overall due to a navigational error. KTM was so impressed with Caselli’s performance he was given a permanent spot on the team. He was prepping to contest the 2014 Dakar Rally and the FIM World Cross Country Rallies Championship.
At last year’s SCORE Baja 1000, Caselli and his factory-backed KTM racing team won the San Felipe 250. He also finished second and third in two other SCORE Baja races this season.
Caselli was not only an accomplished racer, but inspired confidence in his fellow racers throughout the paddock. He will be missed by everyone in the racing community.
The staff at Ultimate MotorCycling offers its deepest condolences to Caselli’s family and friends. Godspeed Caselli…Godspeed.
Following are quotes from those associated with Caselli in the motorcycle-racing community:
Pit Beirer (Head of KTM Motorsports): “Today we lost a KTM hero in the worst possible circumstances. 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 off-road racing.”
Jon-Erik Burleson (President of KTM North America) says: ”We at KTM can’t put into context the loss everyone in the motorcycling community is experiencing. 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.”
Antti Kallonen (Factory FMF/KTM Team Manager) says: “The loss of Kurt is immense to the sport, our team and to our family. 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”.
Rob Dingman (AMA President & CEO) says: “Kurt Caselli was one of American desert racing’s finest champions, and his early and untimely death is a major blow to the hearts and minds of all of us who knew him or knew of him.
“Caselli was a gracious competitor, a team leader and a fan favorite. His love for motorcycling showed through in everything he did, whether he was leading his fellow racers as the U.S. team captain for the International Six Days Enduro or signing autographs for a young fan. On behalf of the AMA Board of Directors, our staff and AMA members everywhere, we offer our condolences to the family of Kurt Caselli and thank them for sharing with us one of the sport’s finest racers and greatest men.”