Six riders from Singapore battled it out for a place in the regional finals for the BMW GS Trophy, with three advancing to the next stage
SEPANG, MALAYSIA — Six BMW riders from Singapore made the trek to Sepang in Malaysia for the BMW Motorrad GS Trophy Southeast Asia Qualifier, and three of them will be moving on to the regional finals in September.
The six riders own BMW F800 and R 1200 GS motorcycles, which are built for off-road or enduro riding.
The dirty half-dozen, Muhammad Hilmi bin Mohammad Fuad (who wore competition jersey 201), Jerome Ranatunga (202), Muhammad Hafidz bin Mohamed Kamal (203), Muhammad Nur Affendy bin Mohamed Ambiah (204), Clinton Leigh Russell Norfor (205) and James Lee Beng Chong (206), were given some pre-event training and competition advice by Tommy Lee, who represented Singapore in last year’s BMW GS Trophy finals.
The GS Trophy is a riding adventure mixed with a competition between the best amatuer off-road riders from around the world. Teams are organised into national or regional squads, giving the event an atmosphere akin to the Olympic Games on enduro bikes.
The next GS Trophy will be held in 2018 in Mongolia, and the Sepang qualifiers were held to find the best riders for Team Southeast Asia.
Malaysian rider Mohd Apis Bin Sagimin clinched a spot on the three-man team by winning the event, beating nine other finalists who were themselves culled from 36 entrants.
Another place on Team Southeast Asia will be filled by a rider from Thailand who will be chosen at the regional finals in the first week of September.
It’s there that the three best Singapore riders — Jerome Ranatunga, James Lee and Muhammad Hafidz (who finished first, second and third respectively) — will have to take on other riders from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam to earn the final place on the team.
Malaysia and Thailand are guaranteed their places on the team because they are relatively large markets for BMW motorcycles.
Marchant Maasdorp (below, left), a burly South African marshall from the GS Trophy and a certified BMW riding instructor, served as the chief judge for the Sepang event. He designed the obstacles at Sepang to reflect the demands of the finals.
“All the exercises were based on our training. What we teach the guys is what we’re testing here. And that is exactly what we are going to get in Mongolia,” he said. “We’re going to get sand, we’re going to get cambers, we will have more water crossings. There’s quite a desert out there and some areas are really mountainous, so we need the guys to do uphill pullaways, we need them to do emergency braking in a controlled manner. That’s why we have the exercises here to test them.”
“It looks harder than I thought. Walking through it, it looks pretty easy, but watching everyone do it, it seems like a lot of effort,” said Jerome Ranatunga (below) of the obstacles that made up the course at Sepang.
“It’s tough and we didn’t get to practice, but I guess that what makes the GS Trophy more challenging than other events,” said Muhammad Hafidz. “I’m going to prepare myself mentally and physically, and practise more.”
That would serve them well, said Maasdorp. “I can see the guys are novices at competition,” he said of the Singapore riders. “If I can suggest something, it’s that the guys get properly fit, because at the team exercise we saw them struggling.”
More training, said Maasdorp, would benefit them as much as any would-be off-road rider. Going through basic training and “two or three” rounds of multi-day intermediate training, he said, would have prepared them to do the pre-qualifiers at Sepang “without difficulty”.
“After that they can progress to an advanced course to be powerful in the sense of being bike fit,” he said. “And then they’ll get the smiles on their faces and enjoy it.”
What would really bring a smile, of course, as if one of them wins in Thailand and clinches the final spot on Team Southeast Asia for GS Trophy Mongolia 2018. By the time you read this, it might well have happened, in which case, for one lucky rider from Singapore, the adventure will have only just begun.