Off-Road racing great Kurt Caselli died on Friday in Mexico after colliding with an animal during the SCORE/Baja 1000. Caselli, an American KTM factory rider, was leading the race when he apparently hit an animal along the route. He sustained severe head injuries.
Early reports that a booby trap took down Caselli went viral however KTM quickly snuffed those rumors out on Saturday and said that animal remnants were found on his bike. Booby traps and other acts of sabotage are reported each year at the race though many are not created to intentionally injure the rider but rather for spectator entertainment. At the time of the crash, Caselli, 30, was leading in the late stages of the 883.1-mile race.
"Today we lost a 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."
Caselli was one of the most accomplished off-road racers in the history of the sport. He was a multi AMA National Hare & Hound Champion, WORCS Champion and a multiple ISDE gold medalist. In June he won the Desafio Ruta 40 Rally in Argentina and in January he was drafted into the KTM Rally Team to compete in the Dakar Rally. Caselli won last year's SCORE San Felipe 250 and finished second and third in two other SCORE Baja races this year.
The Baja 1000 is part of the SCORE Championship Desert Racing Series that includes the San Felipe 250. The Baja 1000 features various types of motor vehicles including buggies, trucks, custom race cars and motorcycles. The late actor Paul Newman competed in the 2004 event at the age of 80.
Tributes to Caselli from Motocross greats were quick on Twitter:
Ryan Villopoto: "Such a tragic loss for the off road community. RIP Kurt Caselli. Thoughts and prayers are with family, friends, and his fellow competitors."
Ryan Dungey: "Sad to hear about the passing of @kurtcaselli . What an awesome guy, going to miss him. Keep his family in your thoughts and prayers."
Ricky Carmichael: "Sometimes sport just isn't fair. deep thoughts and prayers to Kurt's family and loved ones..#godspeed RIP http://instagram.com/p/gyFkrxuRPy/"
Justin Brayton: "Horrible waking up to see we've lost Kurt Caselli, such a great person and one of the best to throw a leg over a dirt bike. #RIPKurtCaselli"
Nicholas Wey: "Such a tragic loss for the off road community. RIP Kurt Caselli. Thoughts and prayers are with family, friends, and his fellow competitors."