Caselli Wins Ruta 40 Rally, More On The Husky/KTM Merger, A 300cc Two-stroke MX Championship In Europe and More! – The Weekly Dirt: June 26, 2013

Welcome to Weekly Dirt, your place on the Internet for off-road news from around the world. This week we check in on Kurt Caselli’s big win at the Ruta 40 Rally, more from Mark Kariya on the Husky/KTM Merger, news about a 300cc two-stroke MX championship in the works for 2014 in Europe, and more. There’s plenty to talk about, so let’s get to it.

Caselli Wins Ruta 40 Rally And More On The Husky/Husaberg/KTM Merger

Talk about steep learning curves! In only his second rally, Kurt Caselli came from behind to win the Desafio Ruta 40 rally in Argentina last week, leading a factory Red Bull KTM sweep of the podium after Honda led the early going. Photo Courtesy Rallyzone/KTM Images

KTM has invested heavily in American desert racer Kurt Caselli and it’s proven to be a mutually beneficial relationship.

In his debut as a full-time member of the Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team, he came from behind to win the final stage of the Desafio Ruta 40 rally in Argentina on Saturday.

Team HRC led the early going with Helder Rodrigues and Javier Pizzolito battling Speedbrain’s Paulo Goncalves plus the three Red Bull KTM riders: Caselli, Dakar champ Marc Coma and Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez.

Coma, who’d won all three previous rounds of the FIM Cross-country Rallies World Championship, hit trouble when he ran out of fuel on the third day, but Caselli stopped, gave him enough to get to the next fuel stop and they both finished, though obviously down on time.

But there was still plenty of time to stage a comeback and both did just that. The next day, Coma set the fastest time in the stage with Caselli a minute and a half behind for the second-fastest time. That vaulted both back into contention, Caselli third overall behind Rodrigeus and Pizzolito, Lopez fourth and Coma fifth, 3:17 behind Rodrigues.

Caselli’s runner-up in the fifth stage behind Lopez set the stage for a dramatic final day. Lopez went into the final day the overall leader by just one second over Rodrigues with Caselli 35 seconds behind his teammate; even Coma wasn’t completely out of it after his fourth on the day set him fourth overall, 3:58 behind the Portuguese Honda rider.

With the final stage a relatively short 85-mile loop, a dramatic finish was certain and fans around the world got it. Rodrigues crashed hard just seven miles in and DNFed. Caselli, on the other hand, was in his element and treated it like a hare & hound, winning the stage in a time 1:18 faster than teammate and runner-up Lopez.

That gave Caselli the win followed by Lopez and Coma for an all-Red Bull KTM podium.

We got in touch with Caselli via e-mail before he left Argentina for Austria, where he’ll attend the worldwide KTM dealer meeting that begins later this week and asked him a few questions regarding his latest race.

DR: First of all, congratulations on a great ride and great result in what's your first rally as a full-time Red Bull KTM Factory rally racer. Obviously, after filling in for Marc Coma at Dakar and winning two stages there, you had a much better idea of all that's involved in competing at the highest level in rallies. Still, every race is going to be different so did you feel fully prepared for the Desafio Ruta 40?

KC: Well, after seeing what the "rally world" was all about in Dakar, I definitely felt more comfortable preparing and packing for the Desafio Ruta 40 rally. I looked at the race map prior to leaving and there were a couple stages that were in the same area as Dakar so I at least had an idea of what the terrain was going to be like. Still, I wasn't sure how these world rallies were run and if they would be any harder or easier than Dakar! All in all, I always feel like I am physically 100-percent ready for any race, thanks to my long-time trainer Troy McIntosh. Even after my little crash in Baja, Troy was able to get me situated before I flew down to Argentina.

DR: Being run entirely in Argentina, the Desafio Ruta 40 had to feel different than Dakar, which took you through Chile and Peru as well. How would you compare the terrain and just the way the races were run? Was the navigation aspect of Desafio Ruta 40 different than Dakar? If so, how? Was it trickier or more straightforward or what?

KC: Halfway through the first day of the Desafio Ruta 40 I felt like I was right back at Dakar. The road book is written the exact same way (mileage, course description and heading) as Dakar, and the speed and terrain are pretty much identical. Reading a road book and navigating while racing isn't something you can just go do on an off weekend. These world rallies really are the best and almost only way to train for Dakar and gain navigating experience. Being that this rally was quite a bit smaller than Dakar, we were able to ride through some more technical terrain, but the navigating and road book are still the same. There weren't any big trucks racing so the smaller sand washes we rode down got a little tricky to navigate through because you were forced to read six to eight notations all within one mile of race course. Each notation indicates a corner or danger so skipping any part of the road book will leave you completely lost or on the ground!

DR: You proved to be a team player when Marc had the fuel pump issue or whatever it was. That cost both of you some time. Were you afraid that your race and the chance to podium was basically over or did you think that, even with a relatively short rally like this, you had time to make it back on the podium?

KC: When Marc ran out of gas I really didn't even think twice about anything but to help him get going again. There was plenty of time left in the rally and there will always be another race! Marc is my teammate and I would do the same thing again no matter what the situation is.

DR: After that, you and Marc made a commendable comeback and put yourselves back in the running with the race coming down to the last day with its fairly short stage. You were a very close third overall when you pulled up to the start. Did the stage have much navigation to contend with or was it kind of like a hare & hound where you could basically just follow a pretty established trail, something that would have to favor you?

KC: The one good thing about having a "bad day" in rally racing is that you get to start behind the next morning. Even though it’s usually always dusty, the top 10 riders are started in two-minute intervals, which allows you to gain a lot of time on the people opening the stage. When you have tracks on the ground to follow, you can just race the course without having to make a line. The last day was a full-on sprint! There were three of us within about 30 seconds of each other and we all knew it was going to be close! There wasn't to much navigating and I had Chaleco in front of me so I was able to see his line. I felt good and didn't make any navigating errors so I was able to get a very surprising win!

DR: Coming into this race, did you think that you'd experience success so soon? Do you think other American desert racers would do well in rallies?

KC: I really didn't have any expectations to win just like I still don't for Dakar! Rally racing really is a unique type of dirt bike racing and I feel like it’s going to take me a few years to feel confident and comfortable racing from a road book. All good things take time and patience is always the key. I’m so grateful to even have this opportunity from KTM and I feel like I’m the lucky one getting this chance. Coming from racing District 37, I know plenty of guys that have had more talent then me but just weren't able to make things work. I owe so much to my father and mother who sacrificed a lot for my career and also to KTM for being behind me for 12 years now! I hope to see more Americans doing rallies and maybe even seeing rally racing come to the USA.

And now, onto another subject that happens to also be somewhat KTM-related:

Though the news that Pierer Industry AG, whose Stefan Pierer is the president of KTM in Austria, purchased Husqvarna is old, there’s still uncertainty what the outcome will be.

What we know so far is that Husaberg is history, with KTM deciding to blend it into the Husqvarna family--a reunion of sorts since Husaberg was started by a couple of former Husky engineers who wanted to stay in their native Sweden after Italy’s Cagiva group purchased Husqvarna in 1986, introducing the first ‘Berg two years later. The 2014 model year Husabergs will be the last of the line; after that, there will only be Husqvarna and KTM coming out of Mattighofen, Austria.

That, of course, begs the question: Will Huskys simply be red KTMs? And what’s going to happen to all the older and current Huskys out there--will parts continue to be available for them?

An interview in Husky’s Summer 2013 edition of Husqvarna Motorcycle Journal, an official company newsletter, as well as the company’s Web site provides some clarity, with KTM North America CFO Werner Kastenauer and President Jon-Erik Burleson answering a few key questions, the answers excerpted here.

“We are 100-percent dedicated to supporting the current Husqvarna line-up as well as all the bikes that are in the field,” Kastenauer declared. “There will be technical expertise and we will fully support the whole line-up with spare parts and accessories.”

Part of that is evidenced in the planned transition, which Kastenauer revealed, “The third step right now is we are moving everything from a BMW infrastructure to an independent Husqvarna infrastructure, meaning we are moving the parts center, we’re moving all the parts, we’re moving the bikes so we can ship and provide these items out of the KTM infrastructure at the moment.”

That will be temporary. As Burleson pointed out, “You can’t really look at Husqvarna North America as a true standalone subsidiary with its own distribution center and its own accounting center because all of that was provided by BMW. In order to make business work on day one without BMW, yeah, we’re going to have to step in.”

Burleson stressed that Husqvarna will definitely be a separate entity from KTM in other areas: “Customer service, racing and marketing--those are the three most important to have separate from an internal staff perspective. It also makes good business sense to have a separate sales staff and separate dealer network.

“We may be doing some hybrid approaches to the salesmanship that would be aimed at just being easy to do business with from a dealer perspective.

“But when you talk about racing and marketing and customer service, that’s gotta be standalone.”

Burleson reiterated that current and prospective Husqvarna customers needn’t worry about support and that the bikes will certainly lose the BMW flavor they’d acquired since that buyout a couple years ago: “The current product isn’t going to be something that’s shelved and put out of life. That’s not a fair way to look at it.

“We will drive away from the BMW-influenced product designs--it’s only logical--but are we going to support them throughout the useful life that a consumer has? Absolutely!”

Kastenauer summed things up in the interview by saying, “We are pretty close to making some official announcements . For now, we just want to make sure that we can give the customer and dealers support they need. In a second step, we will think about our organization structure, who is in charge of what and logistics of where the headquarters is going to be.”

Husky's 2014-model line-up will be unveiled to the public at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy, early in October. —Mark Kariya

New European 300cc Two-Stroke Championship Announced

The August issue of Dirt Rider magazine features a 300cc two-stroke shootout.

Coincidentally, on the heals of the release of Dirt Rider’s August issue, which features a 300cc two-stroke shootout, the FIM has announced a new European 300cc two-stroke Championship to be launched in 2014.

After a meeting between manufacturers and FIM, Youthstream and FIM Europe are glad to announce the start of a new European 300cc two-stroke Championship next season. All the parties agreed that this series is likely to have a great success and it will be the base to take part in the FIM Motocross World Championship.

The market demand of the two-stroke for Motocross is increasing rapidly. Youthstream plans to hold between 6 to 7 races together with the MXGP (like it is already done for the 125cc and 250cc). The suggested capacity for the technical rules is going to be from 200cc to 300cc two-stroke.

Youthstream and FIM Europe believe a large number of riders is going to participate in this Championship, especially taking into account that the FIM MX3 World Championship will stop in 2014 and for sure there will be many riders willing to enter the new European 300cc two-stroke series.

Loretta Lynn's Amateur National Motocross To Air On NBC

Loretta Lynn’s is a mecca for amateur motocrossers. Photo By Shan Moore

If you’re into the Amateur MX scene and you can’t make it to Loretta Lynn’s this year, you can watch it on TV, says MX Sports, who just announced that the 2013 Red Bull AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, which is part of the Red Bull Signature Series, will be aired on NBC. The time of the broadcast will be Saturday, August 3 at 3 pm ET/Noon PT on NBC. Fans will see the top amateur motocross racers in the country meet at the famed Loretta Lynn Ranch, the proving grounds for up-and-coming racers in the sport.

The Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee has been the home of the world’s largest and most prestigious amateur motocross racing program for over 30 years. As part of the season, amateur racers vie for the overall title and a place in history at the same track that gave rise to the successful professionals that came before them. Host Sal Masekela will take viewers on a ride and introduce them to the top riders and present the excitement of the culminating races.

Loretta Lynn’s is part of the Red Bull Signature Series, the most progressive action sports property in the world, featuring some of Red Bull’s top events including the Vans US Open of Surfing, Joyride, Dreamline and Rampage. For more information, please visit www.redbullsignatureseries.com. Be sure to follow the Red Bull Signature Series on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Joins Ponca City MX Championships

A lot of pro racers got their starts at Ponca City. Photo By Shan Moore

In other Amateur national motocross news, it was announced that Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Joins Ponca City MX Championships as Title Sponsor for 2013 Season.

RPM Sports is telling us that Rocky Mountain ATV/MC has signed a two-year deal to serve as the Title Sponsor and official online powersports retailer for the Ponca City MX Championships. As an avid supporter of motor sports, Rocky Mountain ATV/MC is proud to have the opportunity to get involved with the Ponca City MX Championships.

2013 marks the 38th year of championship racing to be held in Ponca City, Oklahoma at the historic Jack Blevins Motocross Park. The Ponca City Amateur Championship, an AMA sanctioned event, will be held July 20-25, 2013.

Live streaming for the Ponca City MX Championships is available for the 2013 season! To follow the intense racing action live, use your YouTube app or log on to XSAN.TV or www.rpmsportsonline.com.

Yamaha Raises $60,000 To Benefit the Feed the Children Oklahoma Relief Fund

This is pretty cool! Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A., recently raised $60,000 through generous donations from Yamaha dealers at a charity auction to benefit the Feed the Children Oklahoma Relief Fund.

Feed the Children is one of Yamaha Motor Corporation’s official corporate charities. Due to the recent tragic events in Oklahama, Yamaha spurred its employees and dealer network to action at its national dealer meeting last week in Las Vegas. Racing memorabilia, including helmets, leathers, gloves, autographed racing bodywork, and more were all auctioned off to attending dealers. All of the money raised will go to the relief fund.

Yamaha has worked with Feed the Children for more than 10 years raising several hundred thousand dollars and feeding tens of thousands of children. Feed the Children is an international and nonprofit relief organization that delivers food, medicine, clothing and other necessities to individuals, children and families who lack those essentials.

For more information, please visit www.Yamaha-Motor.com, check out Yamaha’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/YamahaMotorUSA, and also follow us on Twitter @YamahaMotorUSA.

Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Sponsors Five Riders and Lunch at the 2013 Ricky Carmichael University

Rocky Mountain ATV/MC announced today that their RCU (Ricky Carmichael University) Red Bud MX Giveaway has concluded. Rocky Mountain ATV/MC will sponsor the five giveaway winners at this years’ RCU installment at the Red Bud MX Track in Buchanan, MI on July 3, 2013.

Winners:

Brennan P. – MO

Jake H. – TX

Seth C. – IN

Zoe E. – IA

Derek E. - PA

Rocky Mountain ATV/MC will also host a sponsored lunch for the riders and instructors the day of the school. As an avid supporter of Powersports and supplier of motocross gear for over 28 years, Rocky Mountain ATV/MC is proud to be a part of the high octane fun and motocross education that RCU brings to mx students each summer.

Husky riders: Bring your bikes to

BikeBandit.com AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days

Got a cool Husqvarna motorcycle? Want to show it off? BikeBandit.com AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, July 19-21 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, is just the place.

This year's event shines the spotlight on the riders and champions of Husqvarna. As part of the festivities, the American Motorcyclist Association will be putting Husky owners front and center in a number of ways.

"Husqvarna has a grand tradition in the U.S., from helping jumpstart AMA motocross competition in this country, to the brand's success in off-road racing, but none of that would have been possible without the champions and riders of Husqvarna," said Grant Parsons, the AMA's director of communications and marketing. "This year's BikeBandit.com AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days celebrates those riders in a number of ways. We can't wait to greet all the riders -- and their Husqvarnas -- at the event."

There will be special parking for Husky machines on the infield, and every owner who parks a bike there will receive a special gift. For those who bring historically significant Husqvarnas, their bikes may be brought inside the official Husqvarna tent, where the marque's history will be front and center. On the racetrack, special gifts will be presented to the highest-placed Husqvarna in every national championship class.

Event planners are asking Husky owners to let them know what bike or bikes they will bring to ensure a reserved spot. Participation is free. Owners can sign up quickly online at: www.americanmotorcyclist.com/events/AMAVintageMotorcycleDays/HusqvarnaCallForBikes.aspx

With proceeds supporting the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, BikeBandit.com AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, featuring the riders and champions of Husqvarna, is the country's premier celebration of vintage motorcycles and motorcycling heritage.

The event includes the AMA Classic Field Meet Challenge, amateur national championship roadracing, motocross, hare scrambles, trials and dirt-track in vintage classes, a motorcycle skills test, a Wall of Death stunt show, and demo rides of current street and off-road motorcycles.

The weekend also features North America's largest motorcycle swap meet, bike shows, seminars on a number of topics by noted motorcycling experts and autograph sessions with AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famers.

This year's grand marshal is none other than AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Dick Burleson, who from 1974 to 1981 won eight consecutive AMA Grand National Enduro Championships during his remarkable career, earning the nickname "King Richard."

To meet Burleson and learn more about his Hall of Fame career -- including his final title that came down to the last section of the last race vs. fellow Husqvarna rider Terry Cunningham -- make plans to attend BikeBandit.com AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, featuring the riders and champions of Husqvarna. For tickets, visit www.midohio.com or call (800) 643-6446. —Shan Moore

That’s all for this week, be sure to check in next week for more news from the off-road world.