AMA National Hare and Hound Champion Kurt Caselli will make his Dakar Rally debut as a replacement rider for rally legend Marc Coma, who is still suffering from the effects of the shoulder he injured in the Morocco Rally in October, KTM announced this morning.
"We always took the precaution to have a reserve rider properly registered in case of such circumstances and it will be KTM USA's Kurt Caselli who will step in to ride Coma's bike," said KTM factory team manager Alex Doringer. "We want him to ride the Dakar without any pressure, embrace the adventure and learn from the experience."
In addition to his numerous wins in all sorts of domestic off-road events, Caselli was a member of the KTM team that recently finished second in the 2012 edition of the Baja 1000. Caselli's start number is yet to be confirmed.
"It has always been a goal in my career to compete in the Dakar," Caselli said. "There would be no way possible for me to achieve this without the ongoing support of KTM. To be able to race the greatest off-road race in the world aboard the best bike in the world is truly a blessing. This is not only a milestone in my career but also in my life."
KTM has won 11 straight Dakar Rallies with Coma winning three of those. The Spaniard's last win in the race came in 2011.
"We worked really hard with the doctors and the physiotherapists right up until the last minute but we have to be realistic," Coma said. "One of the muscles in my shoulder is still giving me problems and there is a lack of movement. This is the logical consequence and we must be honest and clear about the situation."
The 5000-mile race will start in Lima, Peru on January 5 and will take competitors through Peru, Argentina and Chile.
"Marc is one of our key riders and together with his teammate Cyril Despres has giving KTM the last seven Dakar titles," Doringer said. "While we are disappointed that he is unable to ride, the health and welfare of our factory riders is the most important consideration. If he is not 100 percent fit, it is better for him to sit out the 2013 rally."
Coma, who will now concentrate his efforts on regaining complete fitness ahead of the rest of the 2013 season and looking forward to the Dakar 2014, said he was sad for the team but underlined that the Dakar is a 'winning project' for KTM so there was no alternative than to make this announcement. Doringer said he hoped Coma would be at the start in Lima to wish the team well and see them launch their attack.