The waiting is over. The 2016 BMW GS Trophy kicked of in style this morning with 19 teams from around the globe leaving Chiang Dao, in Thailand to head into the jungle under the glare of TV camera’s and media.
It what was an early start thanks to some our fellow teams who, suffering from jet lag were up early and decided that the rest of the teams should also be awake. Their enthusiasm for the start of the GS Trophy meant the entire camp was awake at 4.30am – a cool four hours before the first team left!
Following unprecedented amounts of rain in the proceeding days and yet more rain fall over night, the GS Trophy organisers reluctantly had to revise the day one route – missing out the almost un-passable hill climbs attempted by the journalists as part of their training two days earlier.
The revised route meant more road work, but on the plus side had the advantage of giving us all the chance to see and soak-up Thailand’s rich culture. From Buddhist temples to hill tribe villages, wandering Elephants and lounging water buffalo – it was a fast track insight into the beautiful country.
In addition to the riding each day, which totalled over 11 hours on day one. Each day of the GS Trophy includes special stages. These special stages define the event and ultimately decide the winner at the end of the seven days. Points are awarded to each team depending on the result, with first position receiving 20 points, second place 19 points, third position 18 and so on down to one point. For any team that fails to finish the test they get a single point.
The first test of the 2016 GS Trophy was a tough one and involved each four man team – three competitors and the embedded journalist manhandling two GS’s up a collapsed concrete bridge before having to launch it of a one metre high drop. Once down the bike had to be turned and lowered off another drop before a run to the finish line. The rules of the challenge prevented the bikes being ridden at anytime, but for the engine could be used.
The previous teams before the UK had split their teams with two riders on each bike. After a brief meeting the UK team elected to start with two riders per bike, but in the most technical parts all four riders worked to clear one bike before returning to the second. It was a strategy that was adopted by the vast majority of the remaining 15 teams and proved successful and minimised risk of any major problems.
The net result was a finishing position of fourth out of 19 teams with a time of 1m 26s. Germany set the best time of 1m18s to take the early lead ahead of Central Eastern Europe and Argentina.
The second challenge was a three rider slow race with each rider timed over a set distance and their times combined – with the team with the highest time the winner.
Team UK’s team of James Berrill, Oliver Twigg and Gordon Blackley once again performed well. A small mistake by Berrill forced him out when he dabbed, but Blackley – a former BSB and TT racer used his balance skills perfected on his daily commute on his old 1150GS with Twigg delivering the best performance thanks to his years of trials riding and focus.
Team UK finished fourth again in the challenge and with the two scores combined ended the day second overall behind Argentina – exceeding our own expectations.
Tomorrow’s stage is going ahead as planned, and we have been warned of hard technical riding, with a 10km stage that will require good team work to get all four bikes through. To make the stage even more interesting team UK will be riding with Argentina tomorrow.
At time of writing we have no idea what tomorrow’s special stages will entail, but judging by today’s challenges they quite simply could be anything!