KTM factory motorcycle racer Kurt Caselli was killed last night as he was racing this year's running of the Baja 1000. It's not immediately clear what happened, but early reports are that he was killed when he hit some sort of man-made booby trap set by locals along the course.
FINAL UPDATE: It now looks as if Caselli's crash may not have been caused by a booby-trapped course, as originally thought. We're still working on the details, but in the meantime, please check out the latest post for further updates.
Caselli, 30, was near the end of the race when he hit the obstacle around 5 PM PST yesterday. He was transported to the hospital with major head injuries, according to Dirt Bike Magazine, but unfortunately succumbed to them during the night.
Details are still emerging, but booby traps are not uncommon to the Baja. Locals dig holes or build ramps or build obstacles not always with the intent to injure, but sometimes with the intent to create an opportunity for entertainment. They're often haphazardly built, and with a complete disregard for safety.
Caselli wasn't just your average racer, either. He was a three-time Hare & Hounds champion, a competitor at Dakar, a winner of the Desafio Ruta 40 Rally in Argentina, and was running near to or at the lead throughout the Baja.
This kind of incident was completely avoidable, and there's no word yet of any potential suspects being charged with any sort of crime. KTM has yet to release an official statement, either through normal channels or social media.
UPDATE: KTM Racing put out this message on its Facebook page, but the alluded-to KTM USA official statement is still forthcoming:
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
UPDATE: Reports about the nature of Caselli's death are still conflicting, and the headline has been changed to reflect that. At the moment, though KTM Bike's Facebook page is still saying it was a booby trap:
The world lost one of the greatest riders ever to a booby trap placed on the Baja 1000 course. Our heart and prayers go out to Kurt and his family. Godspeed brother.
KTM itself has not yet released an official statement, as of 1:30 PM EST.
UPDATE: Score International, the sanctioning body for the Baja 1000, has released an official statement confirming Caselli's passing, but it makes no mention of any booby trap. It's still unconfirmed what caused Caselli's death. The text of the official statement follows:
SCORE International confirms tragic racing accident claims life of American desert racing star Kurt Caselli
ENSENADA, Mexico—SCORE International, a desert racing sanctioning body based in Reno, Nev., has confirmed that American motorcycle star Kurt Caselli tragically lost his life Friday as a result of injuries sustained during a late-race accident at the SCORE Baja 1000 being held in Mexico’s Baja California.
One of the best-liked and respected personalities in American desert racing, Caselli, 30, of Palmdale, Calif., died of serious trauma incurred when he apparently lost control of his KTM motorcycle in 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 occurred at 4:30 p.m. PT Friday.
“Our desert racing family has lost a very special person in Kurt,” commented SCORE President Roger Norman. “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.”
A multi-time AMA National Hare & Hound Champion, WORCS Champion and many-time ISDE gold medalist, Caselli was a developing international rally racer as well. In June of this year he won the Desafio Ruta 40 Rally in Argentina – in what was only his second international rally since making his debut in the Dakar Rally at the end of 2012. Caselli won two stages of the Dakar Rally this past January.
Caselli and his factory-backed KTM racing team won last year’s SCORE San Felipe 250 and finished second and third in the other two SCORE Baja races this season.