The BMW Motorrad’s 2012 International GS Trophy is underway. The South America 2012 event is the third edition of the GS Trophy, with previous events taking place in South Africa in 2010 and Tunisia in 2008. This time we will see 15 teams, comprising 45 riders from 19 nations, competing.
The GS Trophy will see the competitors ride close to 1,200 miles (2,000 km) over seven days as they cross the mountainous region of the southernmost Andes that extends into Chile and Argentina. The event is not a race but a team competition, pitching the international contingent against each other in a series of special tests – and not all are riding tests. With the competitors camped nightly in a bivouac, the event also fosters a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie.
The start and finish are both in Temuco, Chile with the competitors riding over the Andes into Argentina and back again in a clockwise loop. GS Trophy co-organizer Tomm Wolf says, “No two GS Trophy events are the same. In 2008 we rode in Tunisia where much of the terrain was typified by Saharan type deep sand. In 2010 we rode across the green veldt of South Africa onto the red earth of Swaziland and from there into the white sands of Mozambique as we reached for the Indian Ocean. This year we are traveling into latitudes much further south and to altitudes we’ve never been to before – on a new continent, South America.
“We always advise the competitors to expect everything. We will start at 300 meters [1,000 feet] above sea level and ascend to 2700 meters [8,800 feet] as we cross the Andes, along the way there will be plenty of water crossings, gravel roads, we could even expect snow. There will also be forests and we may even find sand…”
The GS Trophy is not a race. But it is a competition and so the teams will be tested, not only in their riding skills, but in broader challenges that will fully engage their intellectual as well as physical capacities.
With overnight bivouacs followed by 5am starts and long days in the saddles (in the order of 185 miles), with so much of the riding off-road, endurance will be a significant factor in the event. So will be navigation and teamwork – in the environments the riders will be riding through it’ll be imperative – for safety’s sake – that they travel in groups. Along the route the competitors will also face up to three special tests per day (details of which will be revealed as the competitors meet them for themselves).
Wild country also throws up wild challenges, tracks do not have road signs and rivers do not always have bridges. The successful team will be respectful of their environment, sympathetic to their machinery and understanding of their teammates.
Day 1: Latin America Leads GS Trophy
Team Latin America leads the GS Trophy after impressive performances in the first two tests of the 2012 event. Team France and Team Argentina – like Latin America, making their debut in the GS Trophy in this the third edition – are close behind placing second and third.
This first day of this seven-day adventure event saw the 15 international teams ride a 155-mile gravel road and off-road course that took them from the event’s start at Trailanqui Resort near Temuco in Chile across the China Muerta ranges, over the border into Argentina, to finish at the Piedra Pintada Hotel and Resort on the shore of Lake Pulmari.
With clear skies and warm temperatures the riders might have anticipated a gentle introduction to the week, but the dry tracks made for extremely dusty conditions while ever-present rocks on the tracks led to punctures that would delay the progress of three of the teams, making for late finishes.
The highlight of the day was the highly technical off-road section climbing through the araocaria forests of China Muerta – 19 miles (30 km) of often tightly twisting narrow sand track with steep climbs and tricky stream crossings. Difficult enough, but with impenetrable dust clouds left by previous competitors more than one rider experienced an exciting off-track excursion.
The tests today were based on technical riding ability – a trial section through the forest and ‘Magma turn,’ an out-and-return timed ride with restricted u-turn (in reference to volcanic activity this area regularly experiences).
Yet for all the on-bike action much of the talk at the dinner table at the GS Trophy tonight was about the Patagonian experience. This a region of outstanding natural beauty, riding around snow-capped volcanoes is something new for so many competitors. Similarly the local peoples made a big impression, be it the horse-riding gauchos attending to their herds or the friendly and curious reception from the villagers met along the way – more than a few children were seen waving freshly presented Canadian flags!
The day, however, belonged to Team Latin America, having shown some highly refined riding technique.
David Fonseca Chinchilla, Team Latin America: “We weren’t expecting to lead, but we’re glad to hear that and so we’ve found renewed energies for tomorrow! We are so happy, this is a great event and so we couldn’t be happier. Everything went well for us, so we’re super-super happy!”
Team France to the rescue
On their first day of their first GS Trophy, Team France fully embraced the spirit of the GS Trophy when they stopped to help not one but two stricken teams. When Team Canada and then Team Argentina were halted by punctures remarkably it was Team France who both times got the stricken riders going again.
Adrian Tobler, Team Canada: “We had to admire the skill with which Team France fixed my puncture, using only the most basic tools – they saved us a lot of time.”
Felipe Masionnave, Team Argentina: “I was really impressed when I heard Team France had only just come from helping Team Canada when they arrived to help us. They probably put an extra hour on their day helping our two teams – that’s a real selfless act. So a big thank you to them from us.”
Team France also impressed in the tests today, with polished riding techniques, and look a strong prospect for GS Trophy success.
Border-crossings are often tense times, when a live competition with over 100 vehicles seeks to cross a remote border, we’re talking an all-new level of administrative strain.
Tomm Wolf, GS Trophy organizer: “I must express our gratitude to the border control staff of both Chile and Argentina who had to cope with such a sudden and massive influx of vehicles and people on two very remote border crossings. Both worked intensively with us in the days leading up to this event so that we could make a speedy crossing and maintain the momentum of the event, it’s their willingness to help and support us that allows this unique event to travel where it does and make it so special.”
GS Trophy 2012
Day One results and overall standings:
1 Latin America, 32 points
2 France, 30
3 Argentina, 27
4 Alps, 25
5 Italy, 23
6 Germany, 21
7 Canada, 18
8 UK, 17
9 Russia, 16
10 CEEU/Poland, 14
11 Brazil, 12
13 (tie) USA, 7
13 (tie) Japan, 7
15 Spain, 4