Deteriorating, muddy conditions and use of the tighter “A” schedule for the first time in the event combined to make Day Four of the 81st Maxxis International Six Days Enduro in Taupo, New Zealand, a costly one for many riders who either lost time or were forced to retire. However, the standings in the FIM Junior World Trophy division showed that the American quartet remained comfortably in front of France and Australia. Kurt Caselli continued to shine, posting the third-best score in the E2 class. Ricky Dietrich (pictured) dropped to 19th for the day in E1, due in part to a slipping clutch that he finally was able to replace at a check.

Likewise, in the six-man World Trophy team standings, Finland easily held on to its lead over France and Spain with two Finnish racers”Juha Salminen in E1 and Samuli Aro in E2”winning their classes for the day. French World Trophy team member Fabien Planet eked out a 1.20-second margin over his Finnish counterpart Marko Tarkkala to head E3 and remain the bright spot for France. But the real story was the toll the conditions and growing fatigue took on the rest of the field comprised of Club team riders, many of whom found themselves stuck in bottlenecks, falling in the slick mud or whose bikes broke after three full days of abuse.

Three Americans fell into the category of DNFs. Lacy Jones of the all-women Dirt Diggers was the first to go. After coming close to houring out at the second of the day’s checkpoints, she decided that pressing on was futile as she found herself unable to come to grips with the slick mud.

Her two teammates, Nicole Bradford and Amanda Mastin, kept on going, though they lost time as well, and the Dirt Diggers would finish the day 105th in the field of 135 teams, unofficially. In the section between checks three and four where they and most competitors lost time, however, officials re-routed the course, leading to speculation that the FIM jury would nullify penalties in that section.

John Bennett of Sugar Mama Racing DNFed due to a machine failure after having ignition problems earlier in the week, though teammates Dylan Debel and Walter Luedtke completed the day to put the team in 52nd place, unofficially.

“I wanted a tough Six Days when I came over here,” Debel said. “I got it. The first day, I thought it was going to be a cakewalk, but the rain’s helping out [and making it tough]. It’s more like a special test [all day]; you’ve got to fly from section to section, not just cruise like we were able to before.”

Greg Gillian changed an air filter and his oil at the next-to-last check, but one of the drain bolts fell out as he rode down the highway transport section, leading to a terminally seized engine in his WR450F, dropping the Missouri Mudders to 56th place.

“I came around a turn on the road on the way back [to parc ferme], and the rear end got a little squirrely,” he said. “I just thought the road was wet. As I was approaching the dam up here”the Ariatara dam”the bike started making really vicious noises, and I shut her down real quick and sat there for a minute.”

Several competitors stopped to see if he was okay, but none could help him get his bike restarted. Even a passing good Samaritan who dropped two cans of oil off for him couldn’t make it run again as the damage had been done. Teammates Jeremy Ketchum lost 19 minutes, but Steve Leivan seemed to thrive and stayed on time.

Motoklub Jiretin Topservis of the Czech Republic maintained its grip on the lead in the Club team standings with the Trail Riders of Houston able to hold on to fourth, unofficially, riders David Kamo, Cole Kirkpatrick and Luke McNeil having solid rides to stay on time all day.

Kirkpatrick reported, “It started off okay, but as soon as they kicked us off the fire roads into the trail, everything just got torn up quick. A couple times I got stuck, but I was able to get out and keep moving, no problem. Another time, we were climbing a hill and an official came out of nowhere and told us to turn around and go back to a fire road. There was, like, about 30 of us, and he just told us to stop and he hung markers and re-routed the course. We followed his pickup down the hill and got back on course so I don’t know if they’ll throw it out; I kind of think they will just because [it was] a course change so I’m not too worried.”

Team Oregon suffered a blow after Rory Sullivan’s bike snapped its chain in the fourth special test of the day. Naturally, he lost a lot of time, but he was able to run back to the check where the pits were and get the necessary parts to fix it and keep going.

“That’s part of it,” he said of his luck. Mason Harrison and Jonathon Seehorn had better luck, and the team finished 22nd, unofficially, after holding sixth the day before.

Gofasters.com (Patrick Garrahan, Daniel Janus and Brian Sperle) maintained its position at seventh while the Merced Dirt Riders (Jordan Brandt, Eric Ducray and Sam Buffa) moved up to eighth, unofficially. Thus, there are now three American teams in the top 10 Clubs instead of four.

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Mark Kariya | Contributor

Kariya spends way too much time in the desert, but we’re glad he does as he’s the man who gets us our coverage of all things sandy.

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