Motorcycle Racer Kurt Caselli Dies After Crash

PHOTO: KTM rider Kurt Caselli of the U.S. talks to a KTM team member after the 14th stage of the Dakar Rally from La Serena to Santiago, Chile, Jan. 19, 2013.

Accomplished American desert and off-road motorcycle racer Kurt Caselli has died after he crashed his motorcycle during an 883.1-mile desert race.

According to his racing team, KTM, Caselli was in the late stages of the grueling international Baja 1000 desert race Friday, when he lost control of his motorcycle and crashed. According to team officials there was evidence that the crash occured after Caselli hit a small animal.

The 30-year-old rider has been a veteran of American off-road racing for years especially the World Off-Road Championship Series (WORCS). Those races feature high-speed desert terrain and motocross tracks.

Caselli suffered severe head trauma as a result of the accident and he died Saturday in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico as a result of his injuries.

Although there have been previous reports in earlier years of the Baja 1000 desert race course being booby-trapped to create more excitement, Caselli's teammate Taylor Robert said in a post on Facebook that course tampering had not played a role in Caselli's crash.

"I want to make something very clear and stop the rumors. Kurt Caselli did not crash because of a man made booby trap, a spectator, or any other nonsense that people are saying about his accident," Robert wrote in the Facebook post. "This was merely a racing accident ... so please stop spreading rumors."

Members from the rest of the close-knit racing world have made statements expressing their shock and sadness following Caselli's death.

On the World Off-Road Championship Series (WORCS) Facebook page Caselli was remembered as a "great one."

"Kurt Caselli raced, lived and breathed off-road and was a role model to many. My tears and prayers are for his family and to all those that will feel the deep loss from our small community," read the post.

Pit Beirer, head of KTM Motorsports, released a statement that called Caselli a "KTM hero."

"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," Beirer said. "Our sport has lost more than a great rider; we have also lost an excellent ambassador for off road racing."

Caselli won the Desafio Ruta 40 Rally in Argentina in June and according to ESPN.com Caselli was the WORCS champion in 2007, 2010, and 2011.

When reached by phone, Caselli's family declined to comment.

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