Live From Thailand: 2016 BMW GS Trophy Final Results Update 8

Day 7 Review: Two Trials Tests and a Return to Chaing Dao

GS Trophy 2016 final standings and results
Dennis Godwin, Charles Lucht, and Tom Asher (left to right) on the final stretch of the GS Trophy, still loving every minute of the ride and the experience.©Motorcyclist

Breaking down camp on the morning of Day 7 was a little quieter than usual. Rather than excitement for another day, riders seemed weary from the week and tense over the final chance to score points. Also, there was surely a bit of melancholy because this would be the last day of such an awesome adventure. First thing’s first, and sorry for the wait—the German and British teams did NOT end up boycotting the final day’s ride in protest. The dew settling on the tents overnight must have cooled the emotions from the previous evening, and while some riders still seemed miffed, none were up in arms. From BMW’s perspective, and the sake of the friendly competition, disaster averted.

BMW GS Trophy 2016, trials course
Dennis tackles the trials course, early in the morning of Day 7.©Motorcyclist

From the camp we were on the road for less than five minutes before the caravan stopped at the side of the road for Special Test #1 of the day. A simple trials course, set into a little hillside where it looked like locals had been gathering dirt, ran up and down the loose gravel slopes and eventually around a tree to a finish line. Anxious to gain points with riding, Team USA was glad to see a skills test, and licked their lips as they surveyed the course.

Tom went first, followed by Dennis and then Charles, all of whom got through the first part of the course with very few mistakes. Tom looked determined and dominated; Dennis was in great form too, until the loop around the tree where he picked the wrong line and sunk his rear tire into the soft dirt. He had to work the bike over on the cylinder to get it out, which cost points and a bit of time. Charles deserved a real pat on the back, with only a few dabs in the course plus he managed to avoid Dennis and the beached GS in his way around the tree.

BMW Motorrad GS Trophy 2016, Team USA in Thai jungle
Team USA and the rest of our group stops for a quick break on Day 7, deep in the Thai jungle.©Motorcyclist

As he was with the slow-race results on Day 1, Dennis was pissed off at himself for making a mistake, but with a couple of pats on the back from Charles and Tom was able to brush it off. And I’d like to say this, while I’m on the subject, about the spirit of Team USA. Any time one of them made a mistake throughout the week or had their head down because they didn’t do their best, it’s always because they didn’t want to let their teammates down. They’ve been banded together as a team from the start, not worried about how they do individually, and it’s showed the whole week. It’s more than a little inspiring.

Lead BMW rider Tom Wolff said that Day 7 would include a little bit of every type of terrain that the competitors have seen over the past week, and that proved true. Tight, twisty pavement, so narrow that one GS took up half the road (hold the fat jokes, please), a sprinkle of single track, and of course more dusty dirt roads littered with ruts, rocks, and concrete bridges. The landscape was much less mountainous than a few days prior, now with sporadic jagged hills dotting flat, agricultural land. Not surprisingly, it was starting to look a lot more like where we started the ride a week before.

GS Trophy 2016, changing tires
Tom put his vast tire changing experience to work, helping Brazilian rider Felipe Pacheco Limonta put a tube in a badly gashed front tire. Credit to Charles for having a 19-inch tube on hand!©Motorcyclist

The clear highlight of Day 7 was the final Special Test of the event; a massive trials course taped off in and around a slightly overgrown motocross track near start/finish of the event. Mostly it was bumpy turns and awkward climbs, but there was also a log crossing and a mandatory “trials stop” on a steep downhill (meaning riders had to bring the bike to a complete stop and hold for one second). Most diabolical, three tires hanging from the back of three GSs waited about 15 feet from a bamboo stake in the ground; each rider on the team had to grab a tire with their right arm, then drop it over the stake to avoid a five-point penalty.

And there was a crowd. More than 100 riders (mostly from China) had gathered at a gas station about 20 miles from the motocross track to ride their BMWs alongside all of the competitors, staff, and journalists, in a parade to the final stage to watch. The pressure was on, then. As usual, Charles, Dennis, and Tom were happy to see a skills test between it and maximum points. After watching a handful of other nations take on the course, Team USA’s number was up and they started their final challenge by picking the bike up from its cylinder head and taking off.

GS Trophy 2016, miles
A little over 1,500 kilometers (almost 1,000 miles) in total for my bike at the 2016 GS Trophy, and they were not easy miles.©Motorcyclist

Tom was his usual self; smooth, understated, and I’m sure boosting some other teams’ confidence with a false sense that the course was easier than it looked. Charles suffered the first mistake, losing speed and tipping over in the initial switchbacks across a grassy trench. He summoned the power of adrenaline and hoisted the GS up to carry on. At the same time, Dennis’ deep focus saw him sail past the tire challenge. He shook his head and cursed, but carried on. Maybe because he knew Charles would have his back. Approaching the tires as the final rider, Charles put a foot down and grabbed both of the remaining tires and dropped them over the stake. Quick thinking!

Overall, the final Special Test summed up Team USA’s week; sure, they made a couple of mistakes, but in the end the rush of adrenaline and accomplishment was too potent for them to be bothered by missing perfection. Charles and Dennis hooted and clapped each other on the back, and Tom wore a huge grin. They were high on completing the event, and proud of themselves and each other for the effort that had put in to the riding. All as it should be.

GS Trophy 2016 final results
The final standings for the 2016 GS Trophy; After a week of riding, camping, and challenges, Team USA finished 8th.©Motorcyclist

As for the top three, Germany rode very well through the final stage, but not as well as South Africa or Britain. The lads from England could feel a little disappointed after the previous day’s controversy, but considering South Africa had the lead in the competition from very early on, the Springboks thumped the victory home with a very clean and quick run through the course. The only other excitement was a rider from the Southeast Asia team nearly flipping his GS completely on the final, gnarly ascent, and a Chinese rider flying toward the first turn and crashing at around 40 mph, his GS tumbling like a roadrace crash. All fun after knowing everyone was okay.

Team USA wasn’t able to catch Brazil, who performed admirably on the final day and actually overtook China for 6th place. Fair play to them. The yanks ended up 8th, and as Charles put it, “slightly above average.” He also pointed out that, taking the number of teams competing into consideration, this is the best finish Team USA has ever had. Not bad, guys, not bad.

So now, what can I say? I feel compelled to tie this whole thing up with a nice bow and a really profound thought. Something about nations coming together being beautiful and reminding us of all of the humanity in the world. And all of that is true. It’s inspiring to see a Polish guy joking with a Russian, and Americans high-fiving Chinese. But what I keep coming back to is the bike for which the competition is named. The GS. I can’t think of another specific model of motorcycle that people are so willing to abuse, and a manufacturer offers so much encouragement to do so. For BMW to pay for people to go to Thailand and drop its motorcycles off collapsed bridges, jump them, and otherwise torture them with terrain, simply in the interest of proving it can be done, is pretty damned cool. The worst you can say is that it’s a play to make people interested in GS culture, and buy one so they too can compete. To that I say: Yea. It makes me want one even more.