The International GS Trophy competition is finally under way and will continue through March 5. The event is not a race but a team competition, pitching the international contingents against each other in a series of special tests – not all are riding tests. With the competitors camped nightly in a bivouac the event also fosters a sense of brotherhood – and for the first time sisterhood – and camaraderie. “The GS Trophy is a celebration of the spirit of the BMW GS motorcycle, bringing together those elements of leisure, adventure and challenge that this bike engenders,” says BMW Motorrad. The Southeast Asia 2016 event is the fifth edition of the GS Trophy with previous editions taking place in Canada in 2014, South America in 2012, Southern Africa in 2010 and Tunisia in 2008. This edition will see 19 teams competing, comprising 57 riders from 25 nations.
The riders will be riding through the hilly, sometimes mountainous and often forested regions that surround Chiang Mai in the very northernmost region of Thailand, about 500 miles north of Bangkok. Chiang Mai is known as the cultural capital of Northern Thailand, famous for the many Buddhist temples to be found in the city and surrounding region. This is a region with a history of spiritualism thousands of years old. But the region is also known for its beautiful highland scenery and the GS Trophy riders will, when not dealing with the challenges of the course and special tests, enjoy splendid vistas such as those found in the glorious Doi Inthanon National Park as well as natural attractions of waterfalls and thermal hot springs as found near the small town of Pai, closer to the border with Myanmar. Bathing may well be on the minds of many riders as they can expect daytime temperatures to average around 95ºC (35ºC).
An interactive photo competition debuted at the 2010 event and proved so popular it became a permanent fixture of the event. So, on days two and four of the GS Trophy 2016, the teams themselves will be photographing all aspects of their adventure. The subject matter for the competition is entirely open, it might be an action shot of teammates, or a spectacular landscape, maybe a unique aspect of local life. Each team will then submit their best photo at the end of both days, to be posted on the GS Trophy website www.gstrophy.com while voting will be accessed through www.bmw-motorrad.com/voting. As before, the photos are posted without credit (although teams usually find a way to reveal their identities), so the fans will vote for the best photo, not their favorite team.
Note that the time for voting will be limited to just 18 hours on each occasion as the results will need to be fed back into the competition and to accord with the time difference between Munich and Chiang Mai:
Photo competition 1: Voting opens Feb 29, 10:00 AM EST (16:00 CEST),
closes March 1, 4:00 AM EST (10:00 CEST)
Photo competition 2: Voting opens March 2, 10:00 AM EST (16:00 CEST),
closes March 3, 4:00 AM EST (10:00 CEST)
The teams will be awarded points toward their overall competition score in accordance with their performance in the votes.
At 08:30 a.m. local time on Sunday February 28, the Rim Doi resort in Chiang Doi came alive to the welcome rumble of more than 100 BMW R1200GS engines starting up. There are 19 multi-national teams of riders, journalists and marshals who had traveled from across the globe for this unique amateur motorcycling competition. But on this first morning, the competitors were all riding as one, united as a community by a passion for GS motorcycles and adventure travel. Their first taste of Thailand on two wheels was, for many, the first time that they had ridden on the left side of the road, but in truth that was the least of their worries, as heavy overnight rain had rendered the first off-road section of the Trophy impassable.
Therefore after a short spell on tarmac, the riders were directed along an undulating 4×4 track that led for 30 miles (50km) to the location for the first special test. Along the way the competitors rode past rice fields and tiny villages, with the occasional glimpses of elephants and water buffaloes, before arriving at the Special Stage, known as ‘Broken Bridge’. Here, the task looked simple, yet was anything but… Teams had to walk two bikes (with the engines running) down a track leading to the remains of a bridge, then push the bikes up and over an angled bridge section before lowering them several feet to the ground below.
What was fantastic to witness was the huge level of support for all the teams, by all the teams. This was especially evident for the trio of female riders (and their female embedded journalist) competing in their first GS Trophy who were overwhelmed by how much cheering and encouragement they received from all the guys representing the ‘rest of the world’.
This Special Stage was timed against the clock and the clear victors were Team Germany who displayed ruthless efficiency. There was another Special Stage in store for the teams later in the day, but first they were able to enjoy a 35-mile (57-km) section of trail that had for the most part dried out nicely despite the unseasonable rainfall, with only a few tricky wet clay sections to overcome or enjoy, depending on your perspective.
The second Special consisted of a ‘slow race’ battled out on a sandy roadside runoff. Each team lined up three abreast to take the longest time to ride from point A to point B with penalties for feet down or stalling the engine. All three riders’ times were then added together to determine the result, which saw a victory for Team South Africa, who were considerably ‘slower’ than their nearest challengers.
On completion of the slow race, the final 39-mile (63-km) stretch treated the participants to some spectacular views including mountain passes, village markets and the aromas of Thai street food. A wonderful section of twisting, winding asphalt transported the Trophy competitors into a beautiful valley, bordered by forested mountains, towards their overnight stop at Pai, with big smiles on their faces.
After a delicious dinner catered by the traveling kitchens of the Shangri-La Chiang Mai, there was a country presentation by the teams themselves before the all-important ‘results of the day’ were announced. Despite not having won either of the day’s two Specials, it’s Team Argentina who lead the standings after the first day of competition with their pair of top-three finishes clearly showing that consistency might well be the key to GS Trophy success.
Gaston Quiroga of Team Argentina said, “This was a good day for us, we really enjoyed the ride in the morning, seeing the elephants was special, and the 4×4 track took us deep into the countryside, this was amazing rural Thailand, far from the tourist trail. We had two good tests too, on Broken Bridge it was important to manage the progress of the bikes logically, we copied the technique Germany used and that was a great help. We were delighted to do so well in the slow race although I was fearing for my bike by the end, with the engine racing and slipping the clutch it’s hard on a bike. To be leading is a wonderful surprise. We’re going to our sleeping bags tonight with big smiles!”
Tomorrow is another day of course; anything could happen – and probably will!
Results BMW Motorrad Int. GS Trophy 2016, Day 1:
|14||International Female Team||16|