Chingisiin Khuree, near Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia - After eight days and 2350km the 2018 BMW International GS Trophy reached its conclusion on Sunday, back where it began, and Team South Africa became the first ever to win the biennial GS Trophy twice, having taken the honours at the 2016 edition in Southeast Asia.
The three South Africans went into the last day with a 43 point advantage, which meant they couldn’t be beaten for the overall honours - until the organisers threw them a curve ball by announcing that the three-part final Special Test would be scored as three tests. Suddenly there were 75 points up for grabs and the Trophy was theirs to lose.
But first everybody had to make the final 300km ride, over gravel tracks, treacherous sand and across open plains, from the final bivouac back to base camp and the final special - the Monster Trial - just outside the entrance to the base camp, with three stages specifically designed to expose any gaps in a rider’s abilities, or their ability to perform under pressure.
First each had to walk their R1200 GS Rallye (which weighs 244kg in GS Trophy trim) backwards, downhill, through a slalom course, with penalties applied if rider or bike touched the markings. Then came a ‘ride the garage’ special where the bike had to be ridden through a narrow labyrinth, with penalties applied for putting a foot down or touching the course markings.
the third challenge was called the ‘wild horse turn’, where the bike had to be ridden into a marked square, significantly smaller than the turning circle of the GS, turned through 180 degrees and ridden back out, with penalties applied if the bike is dropped or touches the course markings.
Each rider had two choices - get off and manhandle the bike round, or gas it and spin the back wheel round, which is a lot more difficult in churned-up soft ground than it sounds. But all three sections were against the clock, with the team that got through in the shortest combine time the winner, so the conservative option was never really an option.
Team South Africa knew that if they seriously messed up the trial and the Americans won, they could could take it - but they kept their cool and set the second-best combined time, actually extending their lead to a commanding 54 points. Top honours on the Monster Trial went to third-placed Team France, (who also won the previous special on Day 7) bringing them to within two tantalising points of taking second overall away from the Americans.
Team South Africa rider Mark Dickinson summed it up: “We trained as hard as we could before we came to Mongolia and that has paid off, especially today in the final trial. But equally importantly we’ve had fun; the whole BMW GS community is like a family and we’ve made some great friends while we’ve been here.
“The GS Trophy it doesn’t end at the chequered flag, we’ve been exchanging contact information all week and I know we’ll be in touch and making visits on each other in the years to come. We’ve all shared this special experience and that’s created a bond between us.”
1 South Africa - 338
2 United States - 286