With the competition nearly at its end, the teams are being led back towards Johannesburg. This 160-km (100-mile) stage led from Phinda Game Reserve to Pongola Game Reserve and was almost exclusively on dirt or mud. With four special tests, the GS Trophy was exhausting today. At the end of the day, there was little change at the top: Team UK is still in the lead but the Nordic team is closing in on the second placed South African team.
After just 10 km (6 miles), the GS Trophy came to a standstill as elephants exited from the Phinda Game Reserve. The first team was surprised by the animals hidden behind trees. They had to move quickly to evade a bull elephant who wanted to protect his flock. For the next half-hour, the bull kept watch on the GS Trophy route before leading his herd away.
After the unscheduled meeting with the elephant, the teams competed in their first special test of the day: changing the rear wheels of two F800GSs on the road. First at the test was Team Japan who astonished the other participants with an impressive time. This was exceeded only by team South Africa, Team Italy and Team Alps who finished in the first three places.
In the second special test at the Pongola Game Reserve, the teams had to turn (while driving with their feet up) on a small course and pick up a spear, drive on and throw the spear at a target. This test relied on balance and coordination with Team Alps exhibiting both and coming away with the victory.
The final special test of the day involved a canoe trip on the lake in the middle of the game reserve — which is populated by crocodiles and hippos. Possible unnoticed dangers threatened this test but fortunately the animals weren’t hungry. The strong members of the Nordic Team again used their physical superiority and won. Team USA, which brought perhaps half as much on the scale as the Vikings won second place thanks to good technique.
The second photo competition (via public voting on www.gstrophy.com) was a battle between the South African and UK teams. Both showing equally strong support from their home countries. In the end, Team South Africa took the win.
When all the points were added, it was a stage win for Team Alps, which pushed them up to 5th place. “This was a good day for Team Alps. In all three special stages, there were good results for us. We took a tactical approach today to the tasks and used our minds. It’s great to finally achieve good results. We have the young Bernhard (Schmidt Mayr, 23) in the team, who is a good driver. For him, these are good results, of which he was so hungry, I think particularly great,” said Christophe Muri.
With a significant gap of 9 points, the Nordic team finished second behind Team Alps. But it’s Team UK, with 114 points who remains top of the GS Trophy standings. Only four points back is the Team South Africa followed by the Nordic team a further two points behind.
Special Test Results for Stage 5:
Changing wheels: 1st Team South Africa, 2nd Team Italy, 3rd Team Alps
Assegai (spear throwing): 1st Team Alps; 2nd Team UK; 3rd Team Italy
Canoeing: 1st Nordic Team, 2nd Team USA; 3rd Team Alps
Photo competition: 1st Team South Africa, 2nd Team UK; 3rd Team Canada
Team Japan thrilled
No doubt, Team Japan has been dogged by bad luck with two people injured during the past two days. But this morning Shigechika Aikawa was given the green light from GS Trophy doctors. He started the race just in time and helped his team to its best-ever result. When their fourth place was announced in the evening they received a standing ovation. All the other teams showed their sympathies for the beleaguered Japanese.
“We are very happy with this result. After Yoshio (Nakai) and Shigechika were injured yesterday, the mood in the team was at bottom,” says Tohru Tamiya the team Journalist. “When changing a wheel, we took a couple of blocks lying nearby to help. We fixed the bikes and were able to make three wheel changes instead of two because no one even had to hold the bikes.”
An early bath for Team Italy
After a second and a third in the first two stages of the day, Team Italy had a good chance to make this their best day. But they missed the chance to win the day, when Marco Daniele De Muri and Fontani brought their canoe in the last. Not once but twice they capsized and had to be brought to safety by a rescue boat. “Daniele and I had problems (outside of the canoe) and the boat threw us against the crocodiles!” says Marco De Muri. “But once was not enough, the boat said it would send us again into the water, and that’s what happened too! Otherwise the day was great for us — we drove through a beautiful landscape and have done well in the first two tests.”
Overall standings after Stage 5:
1. UK, 114 Points
2. South Africa, 110
3. Nordic, 108
4. Canada, 1999
5. Alps, 88
6. Spain, 85
7. Germany, 80
8. USA, 78
9. Italy, 67
10. Japan, 45