2012 BMW GS Trophy Review
All good things must come to an end, and so the third international GS Trophy has finally reached its conclusion, following seven days of exciting competition.
After 2,000 kilometers of incredible riding terrain and numerous Special tests designed to showcase the best riding skills – and at the same time highlighting any weaknesses in technique – Team Germany emerged as the clear winner in this unique competition for BMW GS enthusiasts the world over.
In the end, the German trio of riders won by a healthy 18-point margin over the French, all naturally talented athletes who will surely rue the lost opportunity of scoring any points, after failing to submit an entry for the first photo competition. The Italians rounded out the top three, with solid performances throughout the week. However, the ethos of the GS Trophy really isn’t about winning or losing, choosing instead to focus on team spirit, camaraderie and sharing the adventure with like-minded individuals from across planet Earth.
As the riders rolled into the Trailanqui resort close to Temuco, after seven days of trials and tribulations on two wheels, the sense of relief and feelings of joy were only too apparent, with emotions high among this international community that shares a love of GS bikes and the BMW lifestyle.
Among the riders were some special guests, including Heiner Faust, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for BMW Motorrad, who said: “South America was the perfect venue for the third GS Trophy. If you look around and see all the people, they’re so happy to be here and sharing this adventure. This is a trip of a lifetime for those that have participated and I’m very proud of the GS Trophy brand we’re building.”
The traveling circus of F 800 GS riders also included the Head of the BMW Museum, Ralf Rodepeter, who was also riding an 800cc BMW GS twin, but a very special one that was came off the assembly lines in Berlin 28 years ago. This R 80 G/S Paris Dakar edition normally lives in the famous BMW Museum in Munich, where it forms part of the BMW Classic collection. Although not competing, Ralf was determined to ride every single kilometer of the GS Trophy on this iconic, first generation GS that has been the inspiration for every model variant ever since. Commenting on his GS Trophy experience, Ralf said the the 2012 event “was probably the best riding experience of my life, with memories that will stay with me forever.”
This was a view that was shared by many of the participants, including Shinichi Yamashita from Japan, who said: “Well, it’s finally over but I’d love to come back and do it again. I really enjoyed all the liaisons and Specials, especially the hill climbing and the fifth day in the rainforest, where the rain dampened down the dust and we were rewarded with some amazing views and riding. I have a BMW F 800 GS back home in Japan and it’s a good bike for adventure travel, but this trip has been all about meeting great people from all over the world. It has been the best memory of my life so far.”
British rider Cameron Thompson was lost for words when it came to summarizing his experience, but composed himself enough to explain the life-changing nature of the GS Trophy: “There has been so much going on that it’s almost too difficult to explain,” he said. “This journey across Patagonia has been the best riding I have ever done – but you have to ride a GS to understand what this kind of trip is all about. Experiencing these roads and this kind of riding brings another dimension to the bike’s abilities. I’ve put the 800 GS in some fairly tricky situations all week but it’s always got me through them with ease. Team UK came here as reigning champions, but we don’t feel at all disappointed to not have retained the title – there are some seriously talented riders here. Before I came out to South America, my wife told me that just being here makes me a winner – and now I know what she means.”
The South African team were a late entry, but a popular one to this year’s event, especially after they taught all the Trophy teams to ‘ululate’ (a high-pitched warrior-like call). In doing so, they helped increase the volume levels at every consequent dinner and Special from the fourth day onwards. For team member Wayne, taking part in the Trophy was a dream come true, especially after the South African nation had hosted such a fantastic event in 2010: “It’s been an excellent adventure that has more than met my expectations,” he said. “In fact, I didn’t really know what to expect in the beginning, and there have been so many amazing aspects to this trip – meeting people from different countries and cultures, the food, the organization, and so on. The riding has been awesome; some of the terrain in Patagonia was similar to the Karoo region in South Africa, and the F 800 GS I rode was perfect for the task. I have an R 1200 GS Adventure at home, so it was great to try this lovely, flickable smaller GS.”
Like Japan, Italy and Germany, the Americans are a team that has competed in all GS Trophy events to date. Team member and F 800 GS rider Carlo Boffi was overjoyed to have been part of the show: “I’m certainly sad it’s over,” he said. “I’ve had so much fun with like-minded individuals and especially enjoyed taking part in all the Specials. I really didn’t expect to have so much fun and that’s why I wish it could go on for another week. I feel sad to part from my bike here, even though I have a 2009 F 800 GS back home which already took me to Patagonia and then back to New York again a few years ago. This latest version held together very well, despite a few impacts en route, but it’s very good. Ryan, Chad and I from Team USA seem to have spent a lot of time fixing punctures – two of our own and six for other teams, and even one on a support truck’s trailer – but we’ve enjoyed all the camaraderie surrounding the GS Trophy. I invested $200 in the qualifier and look at the experience and memories that I’ve got out of it – it’s been a fantastic return on my money!”
Despite the fact that the American team hadn’t ever met until they arrived in Santiago, Chile, they gelled extremely well as a unit, and contributed to the unique Trophy atmosphere. Summing up his experience, Chad Yoshitomi from Alaska said: “I’m just overwhelmed by the whole Trophy, it was simply amazing. BMW Motorrad has put on a great event that has exceeded expectations at a level of enjoyment way beyond what I had imagined. The bike was faultless. I’ve got an R 1200 GS Adventure back home in Alaska, so I found the F 800 GS I used light, easy to ride and good on fuel. In brief, the GS Trophy couldn’t have been better – the whole show was wonderful.”
The solidarity between nations was evident throughout the Trophy, a fact that wasn’t missed by Team Russia member Andrey Sokolov: “I would love to turn back and do it all again. I really am ready for one more run,” he said “It’s certainly hard to realize that it’s the end of such a long trip and that we’ve made friends with so many new people from countries all over the world. I hope that many of us will meet again in the future – perhaps at another GS Trophy!”
Of course, it wasn’t just team-members that enjoyed the Trophy; a journalist accompanied each team throughout the week, taking part in some Specials and helping motivate and guide their trio of riders through a variety of arduous tasks. Although he was limited in off-road experience, British journalist Martin Fitz-Gibbons rode a steep learning curve all the way to the finish at Trailanqui and was definitely relieved to have emerged from a week of tough riding completely unscathed: “It certainly wasn’t a holiday, it was a real challenge here in South America – and one that I’m incredibly relieved to have finished,” said the BiKE Magazine writer. “Prior to arriving at the start, I was nervous, because I had only done six days of training at the BMW off-road skills school in South Wales with Simon Pavey and his team. They prepared me well though, and I’m proud to have stayed on the bike all week! The F 800 GS is a genuinely good bike. It’s not easy to hop on at first but it is incredibly rewarding. I can’t think of a better adventure motorcycle.”
Although they appeared more serious than some of the other contenders, eventual winners Team Germany proved their funny side when they stripped off to reveal tight, all-in-one colored base layers, with each team member representing one of the colors of the German flag, when they went up to the front of the restaurant to collect their winning trophies: “It was great to arrive back at our starting point all together,” said team member Tobias Weiser after the victory celebrations were over. “This GS Trophy has been way beyond my expectations. We had so much fun, especially with all the Brazilians and Argentinians. In fact, it was all the people that made the trip so special for me. I’ve got an HP2 at home, but I really enjoyed riding the F 800 GS, even though I’m a really tall guy. In short, I’ve had the time of my life out here in South America.”
For chief scout and one of the main organizers, Tomm Wolf, there was an immense feeling of relief and satisfaction that the third International GS Trophy had been such a success: “For me, it was great to work and play with all the competitors and support staff. It’s been a long time planning this Trophy and I’m delighted – and relieved – that we got everyone back safely and in one piece! There are so many people that have been essential to the organization of this event – we really couldn’t have done it without them. But we’re already thinking about the next one. In two years, we will start another GS Trophy, so maybe we’ll see some of these amazing guys return again…”
Summing up the event, Michael Trammer echoed the feeling that the competition element of the Trophy was not so important as the sense of unity and passion evident in this collection of GS enthusiasts from all over the world: “Everybody was a winner in the GS Trophy, because after the week we spent together, we’ve become one big family,” he confirmed. “This experience will last forever – and that’s the best prize we can give anybody.”
And the final thanks comes from BMW Motorrad Head of Marketing, Hans de Visser, who said: “For me the GS Trophy was like a big family gathering. Although we were in South America, there were so many people following online and posting messages of support for all the teams out there. This was like the good old days when you used to send postcards to the ones you loved.”