The second GS Trophy has begun. Under the, at times, hot African sun, 10 teams from 13 different countries (USA, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Austria, UK, Italy, Spain, South Africa and Japan) are participating in six daily challenge sections. They will demonstrate their riding skills, navigation talent, fitness and ability to work as a team. They will be awarded points after each section with one team coming out the winner.
Tomm Wolf, the German sports director of the GS Trophy 2010, has set up a course using a variety of South African terrain: gravel, deep sand, river crossings, single trails and asphalt with deep potholes. “If you see an ear sticking out of a pothole, it’s not a rabbit, It’s a donkey,” says Jan de Toitt who helped plan the route. The plan is to ride about 2,000 km (1600 miles) total through South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique and come back to Johannesburg, South Africa.
The first section starts with teams riding 170 km (105 miles) out of Johannesburg along a wide, well-developed road giving teams an opportunity to get used to their identically prepared, Touratech-equipped F800GS motorcycles (as well as getting used to the pot-holes). The asphalt ends at a sign marked “Cosmos Country” which refers not to the universe but to the purple flowers which carpet the farmland.
The teams passed round mud huts, which are typical in nearby Swaziland. Sun has given way to gray sky and mist with temperatures dropping from 28 to 14° C (82 to 57° F). In the dirt, the participants could travel at nearly highway speeds at first but the slopes were deceptive and they found ruts, holes and rocky sections with teams leaving clouds of dust. After 300 km (186 miles) teams reach the Country Trax estate in Amersfoort, Mpumalangae and their first special challenge.
Following elaborate routes can improve a GS driver’s skills, so this special challenge is about navigation. The participants are given five GPS waypoints which they must find within an hour. The teams ride across fields, through mud, over rocks and up and down steep slopes. The South African team used its “home field” advantage to win this task. But the German team was less than two minutes behind with Team USA three minutes behind them.
Gerber Styrdon of Team South Africa said: “I think we were in front, because we drew a straight line through the bush and using this line to lead from one point to another. Instead of staying on the slopes like the other guys, we crossed a couple of ravines. We took the less traveled but faster route, so we were first at the end.”
Team Japan struggled with the navigation test but achieved another first. Team rider, Shigechika Aikawa, was the first to crash. Slightly embarrassed, Aikawa confessed he was thrown off the bike because he was showing off for a TV crew reporting on the event. He wanted to create an impressive slide on his F800GS. Fortunately, Aikawa was unhurt.
The navigation test had other challenges as well. For example, the teams had to cross a deep river. Most teams pulled and pushed their bikes through the water but the Italian team was able to collect wood lying nearby and build a bridge! Top marks for ingenuity but the time it took cost them a better result.
At dusk the tired and dirty teams returned to camp to find cold beers and a warm fire.
Stage 1 Results:
South Africa: 15 points
Germany: 12 points
United States: 9 points
Spain: 7 points
Canada: 6 points
United Kingdom: 5 points
Italy: 4 points
Nordic: 3 points
Alps: 2 points
Japan: 1 point