Why?Caselli put the blame not on the renewed interest or deeper fields but on a SCORE rule change: "As far as crashing goes this year, you know, they upped the limit on the Trophy truck tires from 37-inch to 42-inch. Some of the guys are running 42s with 28-inch rims! I don't know if anybody knows how big that is, but it's huge!"When you get a bigger wheel like that, obviously the horsepower is there the trucks to push it you're going to make bigger bumps. And everything you're riding in San Felipe is developed from trucks--all the Trophy trucks, all the buggies, they develop the course to get rough and we have to try to figure out and adjust the bike to make it work through truck whoops."Well, when you're running an 18-inch wheel compared to a 42, you're going to be a little off so what I found is you can't set the bike up anything like what you're used to racing in the States or even just racing a motorcycle race. It has to be completely unbalanced--the front end has to be a lot stiffer and ride a lot higher; the rear end has to sit down a little bit lower but also move a lot faster, rebound's a lot freer just to keep the front end up on the whoops and the rear end track through all of those big bumps."The rocks were the biggest issue, I believe. I know 'Brownie' (Mike Brown) and I spent two weeks pre-running, and every day it was, 'Man, if these rocks weren't here it'd be fine--we wouldn't have a problem!'"With the whoops we're able to do a certain speed and that's about as fast as you can go through the whoops. There's no doubt that myself or anyone on my team or Honda's team or Kawi's team, we all have the same capabilities. We can all ride just as fast; nobody really is outstanding anybody else."I think it just came down to lines and staying safe. I mean, I went down in the first 30 ; I crashed and I really had to take a step back: 'Okay, just get the bike there .'"It's tough. It was the first race , there was a lot of hype, a lot of teams, there was a lot of good riders, everybody's talking about it. For us , it was like going into Anaheim 1 after being off for so long."This year it's a learning curve for KTM and myself. I don't have a lot of experience in Baja, I'm learning slowly. I've got some great assets between Ivan Ramirez and Quinn Cody. For me, it's really fun--it's something new."What isn't new is Caselli's trust in the hybrid bike that KTM provided for him and the Brown/Cody pair. Basically, it consisted of Caselli's AMA hare & hound rolling chassis and a factory-built 450 Rally engine. Carbureted."Internally, there's quite a few things that are different ," he confesses. "It runs a lot cooler and it's got a lot of power. We're running a lot of power in the hare & hounds, but that Rally bike is in its own league!"We were all, when we first went out and tested the bikes--myself, Mike Brown, Ivan and Quinn--we were all pretty amazed how much horsepower it was putting out and how fast it was but also how smooth and reliable it felt. It's not a supercross motor that revs to the moon; it's really mellow, strong power that you feel like you're in an overdrive just kind of cruising when you're going top speed."And as if that wasn't enough, Caselli reveals that there's more available: "I guess I can say that the gearing that we tested with was…more of a motocross gearing than what we ran in . We did 118 miles an hour and that was with gearing that we could've got a lot faster with. I really think in the 1000 and 500, we're pushing around 125 miles an hour and that's something that you can run all day on that motor. It feels strong and it feels completely reliable. It makes me smile because I know we definitely have the fastest bike out there, but it's also going to elevate the level for everybody. (By comparison, the JCR Honda CRF450X reportedly tops out in the 112 MPH range.)"A lot of people have their doubts about KTM and I've never had a doubt in my mind that the bike can finish both with no problem," Caselli insists. "I'm looking to prove that, and how we finish, that's icing on the cake."I'm in this for a few years so I really want to put some emphasis on building a strong base and building a structure around KTM's Baja effort and just continue our program."It was definitely fun--not so much winning the San Felipe 250 in 2012 but starting a new era, starting a new presence in Baja and bringing that prestige back to desert racing, to off-road racing." --Mark KariyaThanks for stopping in and be sure to check back next week for more off-road news.