Live From Thailand: 2016 GS Trophy Enduro Challenge Update 7

Day 6 Review: Epic Single Track, Perfect Weather, and... a Boycott?

2016 GS Trophy Team USA on day 6
Anybody here read Thai? Dennis, Charles, and Tom (left to right) are at least glad I’m around with a GPS.©Motorcyclist

Charles, Dennis, and Tom have really been looking forward to Day 6. Every member of the BMW staff has been talking, since the beginning of the week, about how technical and difficult the riding would be. In Dennis' words, he came here to get his ass kicked, and the other two feel the same. In riding in a far-away land with the best GS riders nations could produce, the boys of Team USA have enjoyed the scenery but have wanted desperately to be tested thoroughly.

After an 8:05am departure from camp, we climbed quickly into the forest and were soon on single-track trails. We have done single track on this trip before, but this was a definite step above. It was, in my opinion, some of the most diverse, interesting, and scenic riding I have ever done.

2016 GS Trophy Day 6, trails in the Southeast Asia jungle
If only a photo could capture all of the single track we rode. This stretch of perfectly smooth trail surrounding by thick jungle was particularly excellent.©Motorcyclist

Eventually we discovered the biggest riding challenge of the day, a gentle climb among trees on a trail that was very chewed up and loose. A gallery of BMW marshals and instructors gazed downhill and watched everyone struggle up the trail, some more than others. I flailed nervously up the climb, not needing help aside from style and technique. Team USA fared better, taking on the ascent with confidence and eventually received a personal compliment from the lead marshal, Tom Wolff.

Like the perfect consistency of a milkshake, though, the single-track was too good to last. We enjoyed it while we could, and popped out of the woods adjacent to a man-made lake and low, rural foothills. We cruised down through the jungle to the vast valley floor and met at a conspicuously steep hill for the first Special Test. It was a tow test, with one rider having to tow a “dead” bike up the hill and back down, while the third member had to ride his own bike and stay out of the way.

2016 GS Trophy Day 6, wheel change challenge
Dennis and Charles tackle the wheel-change challenge at the end of Day 6 of the GS Trophy. They, along with Tom, managed to change three wheels in around nine minutes. Good thing someone was there to shine an extra headlamp on things.©Motorcyclist

After the first attempt ended in a broken strap, the marshal allowed Team USA a second bite at the apple. Unfortunately, after making it gracefully up the hill and around the obstacle, the line between Tom's tow bike and Dennis' dead bike jerked tight and dragged Dennis to the ground. Unlucky, and would have cost Team USA some points but for the marshals' decision to rule out all towing test scores due to inconsistent directions from the BMW staff. Bullet dodged!

The afternoon saw some of the same dusty dirt roads we’ve come to know here in Thailand, and also yet another set of insanely awesome pavement curves leading through hillside towns. Different towns this time, though—we must be getting close enough to Chiang Mai that tourists are invading en masse. Many of the towns have a western tinge and what appear to be a lot of yoga retreats. It didn’t detract from the roads though, which were amazing.

Arriving at the campsite and setting up tents in the afternoon, we were told that Special Test #2 would start around 6:00pm, but they couldn’t say what it would be. As it happened, it was a clever challenge where the front wheels of three GSs were numbered had to be swapped, completely and correctly, in the shortest period of time. I, the useless journalist, was allowed to watch and offer tips but not touch anything. With vast motorcycling experience between them (plus Tom literally being a mechanic) and me skillfully pointing my headlamp at stuff, Team USA swapped three front wheels in just over nine minutes. Impressive!

2016 GS Trophy Day 6 standings
Team USA is within one point of Brazil for 7th place, so as far as we’re concerned the final day will be a barn burner. South Africa’s lead is still substantial, but is now controversial. Pure drama at the GS Trophy!©Motorcyclist

But not as impressive as five other teams who were faster. Still, 15 points in the bag for the yanks, plus the nine from the hillclimb, for a total of 24 on the day and a grand total of 187 points. That’s an arbitrary number, I know, but at the end of today Team Brazil has 188 points. Sure, it’s the battle for 7th and 8th, but man it would be sweet to nab a position on the final day!

(As a sidebar, there is high drama in the pressroom right now: the teams from England and Germany have been fighting to close South Africa’s commanding lead, but haven’t succeeded yet. In the tow test today, both the Brits and the Germans did well while the South Africans struggled. In eliminating the results from the tow test, South Africa benefits, and now the two chasing teams are threatening not to ride the final day in protest. Is competition between nations ever friendly, really? That and other news coming tomorrow.)