The eighth edition of this gruelling rally felt like a reunion of long-lost family
Chowde and his BMW R 1250 GS are pinned against a rock with the sea crashing against the rock from the other side. This part of the track was easy and totally up Chowde’s alley, but many teams had ridden through before Team India resulting in the track being quite torn up. The R 1250 GS wouldn’t budge as Chowde had dug himself into the rock field trying to manoeuvre his way out. Adib tried to help Chowde until Rameez came along and took over so Adib could head to the finish line. Once he finished, he ran back to relieve Rameez so the latter could cross the finish line.
Chowde had been wrestling the bike for a bit now. You could see he was getting tired and running out of steam. Adib made it back and the duo pushed and pulled and eventually got the motorcycle out of the rut and away from the darned rock. Precious time was lost for Team India on this last test here in Albania. Across the line, the trio fall into a heap as they were spent and upset by events that transpired at the penultimate ride at the GS Trophy. It all seems worth it though when they ride towards the finish line to be greeted with applause and cheering from the crowd.
“That is what the GS Trophy is about. The boys did well and showed excellent teamwork. It was amazing to see them work together to overcome and finish the test. They are winners in my book whatever the score” says a marshal, having witnessed the events unfold.
Before the last test, Team India was in ninth place, having spent the last six days making their way up the scoreboard. The last day’s foray on the track saw an amazing performance by Team Mexico and Latin America (Lat AM) to shake the final scoreboard and push Team India to twelfth place, the best score for an Indian team till date.
In the pre-start briefing a week ago, the marshals explained, “The GS Trophy is a friendly competition, not a race.” Looking around the dinner tent, I thought that for a friendly competition you need friends to compete with. Right now we are just a bunch of skilled motorcyclists from around the world brought together by our love for adventure and the BMW GS.
Over the week, that would drastically change. Let me explain. Every day a marshal is assigned two teams. The first team gets flagged off at 7am and the next follows at five minute intervals. This gives the last two competing teams ample time before they ride out so they have to help the crew and pack up the luggage truck. Team India packed the luggage truck quite efficiently thrice with the help of Team UK, Team Mexico, Team Lat AM, Team China, Team USA and Team South Korea.
Being connected with everyone over the Sena throughout the day helps because the conversation never really stops. We learn that every country has the same terrible jokes. All this while the Marshalls lead two teams through some crazy trails. Mud, sand, silt, rock filled rutted steep trails cut through the Albanian countryside. With a little skill and the amazing prowess of the BMW R 1250 GS, I never found myself in a spot other than that one time being stuck in a deep ditch with gloppy mud (a rookie mistake on my part).
The marshals also set up a series of special stages in the middle of nowhere to test the team’s skills in very fun and peculiar ways. These special stages are where points are given depending on the rules of the stage.
After a hard day of riding, the teams find themself in the camp setting up their tents and heading to dinner. We sit together, eat, laugh and reminisce over a few drinks waiting for the day’s points to be tallied. The next morning we wake up at 5am, start packing up our tent and ride and repeat it all. By the end of the seven days, there are no more strangers competing. Just friends.
BMW says the GS International Trophy is not a race but a competition but I think they are wrong. It is a reunion of a family you never knew you had and absolutely adored.