GS Trophy Qualifier Singapore 2019: Three of hope



Three riders from Singapore are headed to Sepang for regional finals, but the road to GS Trophy New Zealand 2020 is a long, unpaved one…

ULU CHOH, MALAYSIA — Three BMW riders from Singapore are now one step closer to contesting the BMW Motorrad GS Trophy New Zealand 2020, after winning the local qualifying round to earn their place in regional finals.

The GS Trophy is an intense riding adventure-cum-competition for the best amatuer off-road riders from around the world.

Qualifying for the BMW Motorrad GS Trophy can be an uphill task

National or regional teams compete in the BMW-organised event every two years, making it feel like the Olympic Games of enduro bikes. 

The 12 riders who battled it out today were whittled down from a field of  20 participants, who turned up at the Ulu Choh dirt park in Johor yesterday to try their hand at a number of tricky obstacles and team challenges.

When the final flag fell, the best three riders were Mohammed Shiblee Bin Mustafa, Razali Bin Mohamed Amin (both of whom ride BMW R 1200 GS Adventure motorcycles) and Matthew Wilkinson (who rides an F 850 GS).

Left to right: Razali, Matt and Shiblee are fast off-road, but they’ll have to become fast friends and learn to work together now, say the experts

They move on to regional finals at Sepang’s off-road course near the racing circuit in September, where they will compete with other riders from around the region for a place in Team Southeast Asia.

The three Singapore reps will battle it out with riders from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines and so on to earn a place in New Zealand next year.

The BMW Motorrad GS Trophy New Zealand 2020 will be as tough on bikes as it is on participants

Singapore was last represented at the GS Trophy in 2016, when Tommy BJ Lee won a place on Team Southeast Asia. Since then he has become a BMW-certified riding instructor and has trained a number of riders in the art of off-roading. 

One of his trainees is finalist Mohammed Shiblee, who described the pre-qualifying event at Ulu Choh as a tough one. “It was challenging,” he says. A slalom conducted in sand was particularly tricky for him, as was having to compete while riding an F 850 GS for the first time.

Shiblee in action, coiling a heavy rope around a tree. One handed. As you do

What made him aim for a place in the GS Trophy? “Peer pressure!” he says. “Actually people like Tommy inspired me take part. Initially I took part to improve my skills off-road, then came the inspiration to do it. He told us about his past experiences and all, and he says to expect something out of the norm.”

The weekend’s event was the first pre-qualifier just for Singapore; in the past riders from here traveled to Malaysia or Thailand to fight for a place in the GS Trophy.

Having nailed this challenge, Matt Wilkinson has another challenge waiting at Sepang

But such events are a key way for BMW Motorrad dealer Performance Motors Limited (PML) to build customer awareness and reach riders, says Anthony Chaw, the head of the business.

PML has been doubling down on such events. Apart from launch parties for new bikes, it organises rideaway holidays for customers, both in Malaysia and further afield.

In September last year it hosted riders at Pure & Crafted (above), a festival of custom motorcycles and live music. 

“I think (bringing) in the GS Trophy adds to the local community,” says Mr Chaw. The Singapore riding scene risks being “too quiet” without such events, he muses.

PML’s Anto Chaw (second from left) says events like the GS Trophy make some much-needed noise in the Singapore biking community

The competition in particular was also an outreach of sorts. Riders of parallel-imported BMWs were welcome to take part. “Hopefully we can win over grey-importer customers,” Mr Chaw says. 

The GS Trophy qualifier event has no sales target as such, he adds. “Ultimately, this particular GS Trophy event is for everybody to just enjoy,” Mr Chaw says.

But it’s likely the competition winners who will enjoy it the most. Faizal Sukree, another Team Southeast Asia member from GS Trophy 2016 and a marshall at GS Trophy 2018, says he spotted some “quality riders” among the competitors after officiating at the weekend’s event.

Faizal Sukree, a GS Trophy participant-turned-marshall, says the work starts now for the three winners

For the three who are going on to the regional finals at Sepang, he has a clear message. “My advice is, do a lot of training with your teammates because in the finals, all the exercises are teamwork exercises. One good rider is not enough,” he says. “You need team spirit.”

Drag but don’t drop: Many GS Trophy challenges are team affairs

That’s a sentiment shared by Tommy Lee, who advises the three winners from today to work on becoming a unit. “They have one month to prepare. They should work together. We saw this morning with the team exercises there were a lot of things that were not coordinated, so they have one month to work that out,” he says. “They’ll have to know each other very well, their strengths and weaknesses.”

GS Trophy veteran Tommy Lee (right) understands the importance of fun

If anyone should make it all the way to the GS Trophy New Zealand 2020, he has a suggestion that is less practical, but perhaps more heartfelt. “Have fun,” Mr Lee says. “Have lots and lots of fun.” Speaking from experience, of course.

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Leow Julen
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 25 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.