5th Annual Kurt Caselli Memorial Ride Day Is Another Home Run


It’s easy to overlook or forget what you have in your own backyard. For example, it’s probably a safe bet that those who live in Anaheim, California, rarely give Disneyland a second thought, unless they work there or when the fireworks go off each night during the summer at 9:40.

So it’s refreshing to see things with new eyes from time to time, and GNCC racer Ben Kelley from Connecticut certainly had a fresh perspective upon his first trip to Southern California last week.

“This is my first time out West, actually; first time in California so far,” he explained. “KTM flew me out, luckily, just to hang out for a few weeks and ride the bikes.”

Although not a member of the FMF KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team, he got to hang out at the team photo shoot, followed by visiting the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) desert playground for the team’s inaugural team-building ride day and, finally, the 5th Annual Kurt Caselli Memorial Ride Day at the Glen Helen Raceway Park in San Bernardino, California.

“It’s probably in the 30s [back home and] we probably have snow by now, so I’m not looking forward to going back to that!” he added.

Kelley then described his first trip to the desert: “It’s pretty breathtaking, [driving] through the windy roads in the mountains and then you come out to these open valleys that go on as far as the eye can see, pretty much. That was a blast! It was my first time really riding in the desert. The whole [FMF] KTM team—all the riders and mechanics—just went out and had some fun. We camped out and rode all day; it was a great time. Growing up on the East Coast, I never thought I would be traveling out here, especially to ride dirt bikes.”

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Thad Duvall also headed West for the first time, though it was strictly for the Ride Day. He shared, “Last year I was going to come out, but it didn’t pan out.

“I flew out here yesterday and was here [for the Ride Day] today. I’m here for two more weeks doing some riding. There’s nothing really going on at home so I just came out to get some seat time in before heading to Florida [to train for the winter].”

They were just two of the many who gathered at Glen Helen for the Caselli Ride Day, some there for the first time and others there for a return visit. And while all appeared to have a good time, it meant just as much for Duvall who said, “It’s so cool. Kurt was a huge inspiration for me. I met Kurt at Six Days, [but] even before that he raced some GNCCs, but I didn’t really know him. He was Kurt Caselli so it was kind of intimidating.

“I became pretty good friends at Six Days with him and just kind of grew a pretty good friendship [before he passed away at the 2013 Baja 1000]. For me to be here and see so many people, it’s pretty crazy, not just regular people but people in the industry coming out to support it. I’m really glad I got to make it out this year.”

Besides being a fellow member of the FMF KTM team with Caselli, enduro champ Russell Bobbitt was on the same ISDE team several years, including the time they (along with Ricky Dietrich and David Pearson) won the FIM Junior World Trophy at the 2006 ISDE in New Zealand. Bobbitt’s been able to attend several Ride Days and said, “I just really like to come out and connect with a lot of people I don’t normally get to see and be here just to support it. I have a great time coming and it just feels good knowing that everyone’s here in remembrance of Kurt and makes us think about why we do this: to be happy and enjoy dirt bikes and that there’s more to life [than just racing].”

Although he only had to drive from Arizona, this was the first Ride Day for Beta’s Max Gerston. Even though he didn’t know Caselli on more than a passing basis, he summed up the day well: “It’s kind of hard because on one side, you want to be smiley the whole time and on the other side, the whole reason we’re here is because of Kurt [and what happened to him]. When you think about it that way, it kind of makes you take a step back and appreciate everything you’ve got and all that at the same time.

“It means a lot to me; I’m really glad I could be here and just be a part of it. The team race was super fun, and I think the smiles on everybody’s faces is a perfect reflection of the imprint that Kurt left on this community.”