This year’s edition of the legendary Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 has come to a close, and amongst the thrill of overall winner “Ballistic” BJ Baldwin, another name has become synonymous with this year’s race: Kurt Caselli. Near the 792 mile marker of this year’s course, Caselli was riding a dirtbike for the KTM factory team when he reportedly lost control at high speeds in a sandy area of the course. Unfortunately, the crash caused severe head trauma that resulted in Caselli’s passing, and left a somber undertone to the 46th running of the famed desert race.
Upon inspection, pieces of the bike revealed that Caselli may have collided with a small animal which resulted in the crash – and which can have devastating effects at high speeds in unfamiliar terrain. However, Caselli was no amateur racer. Named AMA Sportsman of the year in 2007, he was also a familiar face to X-Games fans of the Moto X Endurocross competition and one of the most decorated athletes in off road racing. While this was Caselli’s first time in the Baja 1000, he had just won his third consecutive AMA National Hare & Hound Championship. To sum it up…The guy had some chops.
But, in a split second, something completely beyond rider control threw the course of a routine race completely off track.
As we mourn the death of a budding off road legend, Caselli’s passing should serve as a reminder to amateur and professional riders alike to not take our time for granted. While Kurt’s accident occurred in the midst of one of the industry’s most intense desert races, similar circumstances are just as likely to occur on a weekend ride in your local National Forest. While we do all that we can to prepare, you can’t control your environment – especially unforeseen risks like animals on the trail.
For this reason, it’s an important call for safety that we use the equipment available and that industry leaders continue to create new safety gear – helmets, neck rolls, chest guards – that increase a rider’s chance of survival when unexpected danger crops up. In line with this, news has just been released that KTM/FMF Factory teams are working with the Caselli family and his fiancé, Sarah White, to fund new research and technology for rider safety via the newly established Caselli Foundation.
Beyond the constant need for progression in safety, Kurt’s passing is also a call to not take our hobby for granted. Off road riding can be a dangerous sport, and one that requires precaution, practice and skill. Conversely, it can also be an amazing release for stress and a method of seeing the world in way that few ever do. With that in mind, let the passing of Kurt Caselli and those who came before him be a reminder to be safe, but even more of a reminder to hold dear those Sundays on the trail, weekends in the dunes and evenings at the track. You never know which ride may be your last.
Thanks for the thrills, Caselli. It was an honor to watch your journey…. We were heartbroken by its ending.