GS Trophy 2016 — Controversy brewing?

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 The hardest riding day gives competitors reasons to smile, but has left some teams unhappy

UPDATED DAY 7, 730am — The situation seems to have cooled throughout the night and riders who had threatened a final day boycott have now decided to proceed with the Trophy as per normal

CHAE SON, THAILAND — Day Six of the GS Trophy 2016 Southeast Asia produced the toughest but most rewarding riding of the week-long event, judging from the reactions of the riders.

The day included a tough single-trail route through a part of the Ho Chi Minh trail with deep ruts, sections too narrow for the BMW R 1200 GS’ handlebars, and sections barely wider than the bikes’ tyres with cliff-like drop-offs on one side.

A particularly tough hillclimb section also claimed its share of riders, thanks to jutting tree roots, slippery, powder-like dry soil and sharp turn angles.

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“It was an awesome single track, back and forth and ducking your head, bouncing your head off the trees and stumps hitting your feet, and my helmet camera got pushed off to the side and my goggles got ripped off my head…” said Dennis Godwin from the USA, breathlessly, after making it through. 

“It was fantastic, and everybody was up there cheering everybody on and helping people up. It was an amazing, amazing ride,” he added.

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The going was so tough at one stage of the ride that one Canadian rider took nearly an hour to cover just seven kilometres.

“The ride today one of the best: tough and very technical,” said Faizal Sukree, the Malaysian rider for Team Southeast Asia. “For today the most important thing was balance. I love riding single trail, very technical up and down mountains. I ride this kind of trail a lot.”

Marshalls awarded nine points to all the teams that made it through the Ho Chi Minh trail section, but that eventually made no difference to the standings because all riders pulled through it.

That left two more Special Stages to determine the positions on the leaderboard.

The first was a towing exercise that required riders to pull a teammate’s bike up a steep hill and around a corner and back down again.

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A mishap with the tow rope put paid to Team Southeast Asia’s chances when it ended up jamming the rear brake lever of Thai rider Peerapat Woratham (above, left), and caused his wheel to lock. Remarkably, Faizal Sukree, riding the bike in front, made it all the way to the top of the slope regardless.

The second challenge gave the team its best results ever and a large haul of points. It involved changing the front tyres of three R 1200 GS bikes and swapping them around, a task the team completed quickly enough to give them third place and with it, 18 points.

But the evening delivered a stroke of luck for the home team when organisers decided to exclude the results of the towing challenge. The reason given was that the marshalling was unclear and that some competitors were confused as to what needed to be done.

This effectively cancelled out the team’s failure to complete the task, and meant that they could consolidate their place in 16th position.

With one last day of the GS Trophy to run, this leaves the team 20 points of clear of Team Japan and just nine points behind Team South Korea.

“Today we got third place, the best result for the team for this event. I hope we can catch Korea for the last day and become the second-best team in Asia (behind China). That’s my target,” said Faizal Sukree.

“Everyone says there’s a special stage that involves low speed bike control. I think tomorrow will be pretty much down to our individual skills. As long as we keep our calm and our nerves, we are good for it,” added Tommy Lee, the Singapore representative of the team.

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But the standings could well be affected before tomorrow’s challenges if a protest from a number of teams about the cancellation of the towing exercise is upheld. At the time this report went ‘live’, members of Team Germany and Team UK had declared that they will not ride tomorrow unless the towing challenge is reinstated*.

*UPDATE: Both teams have said they will continue

They have made their position clear with the organisers but will only receive a reply tomorrow itself.

“Well, there are always two sides to the coin. It kind of worked out in our favour that it was cancelled, but in terms of sportsmanship, some of managed to do it and some of us didn’t,” said Tommy Lee.

With the towing results in the scoring system, South Africa currently looks uncatchable at the head of the GS Trophy 2016 standings. 

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South Africa 242 points
Germany 225
UK 223
China 207
Latin America 205
CEEU* 199
Brazil 188
USA 187
France 167
Argentina 162
Mexico 159
Italy 156
Russia 154
Canada 148
Korea 137
SEA 128
Japan 108
IFT** 102
Alps*** 102

*Central Eastern EUrope
** International Female Team
*** Austria-Switzerland

GS Trophy 2016 Day Five: Team SEA hangs onto 16th position
GS Trophy 2016: Day Four: Home team holds position
GS Trophy 2016 Day Three: Some ground gained, some lost
GS Trophy 2016 Day Two: Southeast Asia overtakes Japan
GS Trophy 2016 Day One: A slow start for Team Southeast Asia
The Olympics of motorcycles

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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.