Mesmerising memories from Mongolia.
They came, they rode and they conquered the remote lands of Central Asia during an unforgettable sixth edition of the International GS Trophy. Mongolia welcomed 18 teams from 21 nations who battled hard against each other in their quest for the top spots in the ranking of the Int. GS Trophy. But whatever the final rankings, every participant will leave the land of Genghis Khan with unforgettable memories of this unique once-in-a-lifetime-experience.
Everyone’s a winner.
There’s nothing else out there quite like the Int. GS Trophy. Nothing that unites the motorcycling world in the spirit of friendly competition, with the chance to make lifelong friendships with other riders from across the globe — not only because of the motorcycle you ride, the R 1200 GS Rallye. With every edition of the Int. GS Trophy, the worldwide community of GS riders grows even larger, and those who are lucky enough, and skilled enough, to compete wheel to wheel in this event, find themselves becoming part of an irresistible scene that knows no limits, country borders or language barriers.
It all starts back home.
It all starts back home.
There are no losers at the Int. GS Trophy — only winners, because all participants have beaten the ‘best of the rest’ in their respective countries to gain one of three coveted team places for the international finals. And what adventure rider wouldn’t jump at the chance of an all-expenses paid trip to the remote Mongolian wilderness to challenge the best amateur BMW Motorrad GS riders from every continent in a team battle for Trophy supremacy?
Two years in the making, with countless scouting and reconnaissance trips taken to discover the best locations saw 18 international teams arrive in the capital Ulaanbaatar at the beginning of June for eight days of intense, tough, gruelling yet always friendly off-road competition. In addition to the familiar favourites in the starting line-up were welcome Int. GS Trophy ‘first-timers’ such as Australia and India, as well as two international female teams comprising ladies from the continents of Africa, Europe, Australia and America.
Julia Maguire, #261 Team AusAmerica
Known and unknown quantities.
No country had ever won the Int. GS Trophy more than once, so naturally the predictions came thick and fast during the build-up to this year’s event. Could reigning champions South Africa do something that had never been done before and win consecutive international finals? Or would newcomers Australia throw a spanner in the works and blow away the opposition due to almost a quarter of a century of Aussie GS Safari experience? Or would one of the ‘wildcard’ teams surprise everyone with flawless and consistently high team performances over the eight competition days. Only time would tell.
Winning habits die hard.
Winning habits die hard.
Interestingly, Team Korea took the early lead in the points standings, closely followed by Team South Africa, who had a title to defend — and knew how to defend it. The trio of riders — Mark Dickinson, Eugene Fourie and Chris Meyer — had practised hard and prepared well for this latest edition, and never slipped below second place in the rankings throughout the duration of the eight-day competition. It was up to the rest of the teams to raise their games — and not just when it came to the riding challenges, of which there were many.
The community can make a real difference.
The community can make a real difference.
The aforementioned riding challenges — known as Special Stages — consisted of a variety of skills tests and exercises, designed to test riders and teams’ ability to perform at their highest levels under increasingly high pressure situations. But there was also another way to earn easier points, and that was the two Photo Contests. Simply put: every team has two chances to activate their local motorcycling communities to vote for their best two photos from the event — and the most votes received nets the teams the most points. In both of the Photo Contests Team South Africa literally wiped the floor with the opposition. It scored maximum points — 50 in total — which helped them consolidate a valuable lead at the top of the leaderboard.
Mongolia offered the participants a seemingly endless variety of riding opportunities, from deep sandy trails through canyons, water crossings, and plenty of fast gravel tracks across wide plains and undulating rocky gorges. However, it was the Special Tests where the Int. GS Trophy would be won and lost. Here, a skilled team of marshals had devised a wide variety of riding and navigational exercises, designed to expose any weaknesses in technique or gaps in knowledge. No matter how many times teams and individuals had practised similar exercises at home, being able to perform under pressure made the vital difference on the leaderboard. Have a look at the individual challenges and see at which places along the route the riders had to prove their skills.
Trial ChallengeOpen in Maps
As the name suggests, the "Trial Challenge" included a tricky trail. The ground changed between rock, loose sand and gravel. Each team member rode individually through the course, it was about riding as error-free as possible in the shortest time.
Magic CliffsOpen in Maps
This tricky exercise tested the condition of the teams, because they had to venture into the deep canyon on foot and without their motorcycles, only with the help of a BMW Motorrad Navigator GPS device. The goal was to find a waypoint on which the coordinates for the next point were written. In total, four coordinates needed to be found to lead the team back to the starting point, as well as a series of letters, which would form a sentence (Make Life a Ride).
Camel HeadOpen in Maps
Camel Head — a trials challenge which took place among impressive rock formations. There, the teams rode and walked their R 1200 GS Rallye bikes across various sections of a tight, twisting course — all against the clock of course.
Dry LakeOpen in Maps
This special stage took place in the middle of a dry lake bed under the burning Mongolian sun. This ‘start and stop exercise‘ was a lot more challenging than you might think: All three team members had to drift their GS over the narrow slalom track for a while before they came to a halt in a marked field on the dry ground.
Metzeler ChallengeOpen in Maps
This was a tyre changing exercise that involved the removal and reinstallation of a Metzeler Karoo 3 tyre on a rear wheel of a R 1200 GS Rallye. The outcome was a lot of tired participants, a lot of cheering and a few well-worn tyre levers.
Lava CanyonOpen in Maps
This was a towing exercise – one of the favourites at every Int. GS Trophy event – where one of the team members uses his R 1200 GS Rallye to tow his team-mate’s bike (with the engine off) over a winding and hilly trail, with the third team member rides alongside.
Marmot ChallengeOpen in Maps
Working in teams, the participants had to set up a packed Marmot tent on time - unlike every evening in the camp but this time against the clock. Before the clock stopped, two of the team members had to go in and close it before they could jump out and take it down as quickly as possible.
Ongi RiverOpen in Maps
A certain degree of wetness: This special stage was a slalom course that involved all team members crossing the river four times on their R 1200 GS Rallye bikes, while negotiating a tight course through deep gravel — against the clock of course.
Orhon ViewOpen in Maps
"Orhon View" took place in picture-postcard surroundings but the participants didn’t have too much time to look around, as this Special involved all three team members negotiating a course that twisted and wound its way in-between big boulders, over small rocks and by-passing lots of natural vegetation. The scrape of metal against rock-face was heard all too frequently.
Forest TrialOpen in Maps
A course through alluvial forests as an exercise in uniformity: This Special required the team riders to complete a tight, twisty course — one after the other — that wound its way through the woodland. The idea was for each rider to pass the finish line as close in total time to that of his or her team-mates.
Bow and ArrowOpen in Maps
A challenge that wasn't about power and riding skills: Each team had bows and arrows in hand and the chance to literally shoot their way up the points table. Eight shots were allowed by each team and the individual scores were added up.
Buhin GolOpen in Maps
The last will be the first: Over a marked course, with a right-angled turn, the teams took it in turns to ride as slowly over the course as possible, without putting a foot down. The clock started when the third rider crossed the start line — and finished when the first rider crossed the finish line.
Shell ChallengeOpen in Maps
Special stage on a rocky outcrop: two fuel canisters had to be carried on the back of the R 1200 GS Rallye by a pillion while its rider negotiated a tight, rocky course against the clock. Each team member had to ride the bike and also be a pillion once.
Monster TrialOpen in Maps
The final stage was another tough one: The timed trial’s three ‘mini-specials’ included each participant having to walk their R 1200 GS Rallye backwards downhill and through a slalom course. This was followed by a ‘ride the garage’ special where the bike had to be ridden through a narrow labyrinth. Then, the third challenge was called the ‘wild horse turn’, where the bike had to be ridden inside a marked square, turned sharply and then returned to the starting point.
Konstantin Zolotarev, #213 Team Russia
Down to the wire.
Going into the final day, there were still three teams in contention for the title and both Team USA and Team France fought hard until the end, with just two points separating them after the final Special test. However, Team South Africa’s consistently high performances saw them crowned worthy and popular 2018 champions. They celebrated and all the teams celebrated with them. Team South Africa’s Mark Dickinson summed up the ethos of the event perfectly: “The most appealing aspect of the Int GS Trophy is that it spreads the love for and from BMW Motorrad. The Spirit of GS means unity to me.”