Today all 2016 International GS Trophy participants were treated to the ride of their lives, with more than 155 miles (250km) of some of the best trails and roads Thailand has to offer. This was combined with two challenging special tests that took the ‘friendly’ competition into its third day.
With a significant distance to cover, the day started early with a pre-dawn striking of camp and a 7am departure in preparation for the longest day in the saddle so far. Conditions were initially cool but quickly warmed up. The teams climbed their way to around 5,000 feet (1,500m) while riding the ridge-lines from one mountain range to another on a mix of clay, dust and sandy surfaces that are more typically associated with closed-course enduro racing.
The first Special came after about 50 miles (75km) of off-road heaven through national parkland, overlooking high-altitude tiered rice fields and tackling numerous switchbacks and narrow tracks along the way. The Special took place in an area of giant Bamboo trees and competitors first had to guess how many bamboo stalks were growing in a certain area. Then, a team member needed to climb a tree around 13-feet (4-m) high to find a hidden message, the contents of which needed to be delivered to their Marshal. Finally, the team had to guess how many meters above sea level they were without looking at their GPS units.
Another 56 miles (90km) of the remotest part of Thailand unfolded before the competitors’ eyes as they rode from village to village – much to the amusement of the locals, who spilled out onto their streets as the GS Trophy circus passed through. Screams of delight from school children, friendly waves from market traders and enthusiastic welcomes greeted the riders as they took in the special atmosphere.
A wide river crossing and the welcome shade of a native forest helped keep everyone cool as temperatures climbed well into the 90s en route to the second Special, where teams engaged in a speed and braking exercise. Accelerating hard over 230 feet (70m), then stopping the front wheel inside a marked box sounds easy, but when the adrenaline and pressure of competition kicks in, it proved to be harder than it looked for many. Not so for Team South Africa, who excelled in this exercise.
Following this Special was a section of tarmac – and in this case off-road enthusiasts – as the 56 mile (90km) undulating final liaison twisted and turned all the way to the next bivouac at Mae Sariang. It offered far-reaching views into the valleys below and mountains beyond. Refreshments on arrival at the camp in the Salawin national park never tasted so good.
It was a truly memorable day for all competitors but perhaps none more so than the new countries and their teams experiencing the GS Trophy adventure for the first time. Among those are Team China and Team Southeast Asia, who gave us their first impressions.
Tommy Lee Boon Jun from Singapore and part of Team South East Asia said, “I think we are enjoying the GS Trophy maybe a little too much! We were very serious initially but then we made lots and lots of mistakes, so we decided instead to enjoy the event because it is a great-great event. It’s great to meet so many people with the same interest and with very similar riding capability, so we ride together well. It’s hugely enjoyable.”
Liang Wen-Hao, China, added, “We are enjoying the GS Trophy very much. I’ve personally owned a GS since 2006, so this is a wonderful celebration of the past 10 years for me, I knew I must come to this event. With all the riders from around the world, it’s so special; it’s every GS rider’s dream.
“As a team, we chose to ride here, rather than fly; it was four days to get here but that helped unify us before we started. We love Thailand as well, all the people are smiling, the people in China call Thailand ‘the smiling country’; it’s a special place.”
As is traditional at the Trophy, all points were totalled after the evening meal and there was quite a change in the leaderboard – thanks in part to the results of the teams’ photo competition that was supported worldwide and won by some margin by Latin America. As things stand after day three, Team South Africa have consolidated their leading position from yesterday, with Latin America and Germany 17 and 22 points behind respectively.
Results BMW Motorrad Int. GS Trophy 2016 Day Three:
1 South Africa 124 pts.
2 Latin America 107 pts.
3 Germany 102 pts.
4 Brazil 98 pts.
4 CEEU 98 pts.
4 UK 98 pts.
7 China 95 pts.
8 Argentina 89 pts.
9 Mexico 86 pts.
10 France 85 pts.
11 USA 84 pts.
12 Russia 80 pts.
13 Canada 75 pts.
14 Italy 67 pts
15 International Female Team 59 pts.
16 Alps 58 pts.
16 South East Asia 58 pts.
18 Japan 51 pts.
19 South Korea 49 pts.