The off-road racing circuit lost one of its biggest stars on Friday night as Kurt Caselli died from injuries suffered during a crash at the SCORE Tecate Baja 1000, according to KTM Racing on Facebook.
Per Chris Estrada of Motorsports Talk, the fatal accident occurred near the end of the 833-mile Baja 1000 in Baja California, Mexico. Caselli's motorcycle reportedly hit a man-made booby trap 796 miles into the race, which caused him to suffer significant head injuries. He was airlifted to the hospital where he was ultimately pronounced dead.
UPDATE: Monday, Nov. 18, at 11:25 a.m. ET
Caselli's racing team, KTM, released a statement acknowledging Caselli crashed as a result of hitting an animal, not a man-made booby trap as initially reported. Here is an excerpt from the statement:
The team, who have now recovered Caselli's bike discovered traces on the machine that indicate he had collided with some animal, which apparently caused the crash.
---End of update---
According to Michael Ballaban of Jalopnik.com, locals have been known to set booby traps on the course in an effort to create some entertainment, but things went terribly wrong when Caselli's bike collided with the obstacle.
Caselli was an elite rider for KTM Racing, and he was a three-time Hare & Hounds champion and winner of the Desafio Ruta 40 Rally, according to Ballaban.
KTM Racing expressed a great deal of sadness when commenting on the loss of Caselli:
Hugely shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Kurt Caselli as the result of a crash while riding in the Baja 1000. A huge loss to his family, team and to our sport. Kurt was a wonderful competitor and an all round top guy. More when we have all the details from our team in the USA statement.
American Motorcyclist Association president and CEO Rob Dingman released a statement as well, according to Estrada:
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.
In addition to KTM Racing and the AMA, a number of people involved with off-road racing have spoken out following the untimely death of Caselli. Among them is fellow off-road racer Ryan Arciero:
After hearing what happened to Kurt Casselli it breaks my heart. Ride In Peace and God Bless! Incredible rider!! Lots of respect!— Ryan Arciero (@ryanarciero) November 16, 2013
Dakar Series commentator Ben Constanduros also had some great things to say about Caselli:
Horrible to hear news of Kurt Casselli death in the Baja1000. He was an awesome guy just getting used to the Dakar way of life. #sosad— Ben Constanduros (@BenConsty) November 16, 2013
According to Dirt Bike Magazine, Caselli was a 30-year-old native of California who had just transitioned to rally racing. He was quickly gaining a reputation as one of the rising stars in the sport.
Although the dangers of off-road racing are obvious, it doesn't make a huge loss such as this one any easier. Caselli was a great ambassador for the sport, and his contributions to motorcycling won't soon be forgotten.
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