The BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy 2022 -

what an adventure.

imagePhoto: BMW Motorrad

BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy 2022 Southeast Europe. Review.

The BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy 2022 Southeast Europe, the eighth edition in total, ended exactly one month ago on 10 September. After 1,230 km of challenging courses and 15 special stages in the hills and mountain ranges of Albania, Team South Africa emerged victorious from the competition, not just once, but twice - as both the men's and women's teams took first place.

21 international teams with a total of 57 participants took part in this year's edition and Albania certainly put it to the test. At the end of a hot summer in Europe, the drivers had to endure temperatures of up to 37° C and extremely high humidity on these very technical tracks, which demanded excellent driving skills and excellent driving technique. They mostly had to deal with rocky trails, often littered with loose rock and broken boulders on a limestone subsoil - a tough test for the bikes and their riders. But also sand and mud had to be overcome. Since the trails with the Central Mountains and the Pindus Mountains passed two mountain ranges, a lot of often very steep and very technical uphill and downhill descents had to be mastered. Was this the toughest GS Trophy yet? Possibly. But all trophies were hard!

As always at the International GS Trophy, the days were long. The morning wake-up call was at 6:00 a.m. and often the drivers did not reach their destination before 6:00 p.m. As a rule, they sat in the saddle for nine to ten hours a day. Given that the total distance of 1,230km was less than half of the distance covered at the 2020 International GS Trophy in New Zealand, it only reinforces how technical this year's edition was. The long off-road sections were extremely demanding, the ultimate test for all riders and their bikes.

This year's GS Trophy motorcycle was the latest BMW R 1250 GS. Equipped with the latest tyre for tough adventure rides, the Karoo 4 from Metzeler, this GS was more than up to the task and inspired the riders on asphalt as well as off-road with its robust reliability and a performance of absolute superlatives.

Once again - South Africa.

Once again, Team South Africa dominated the GS Trophy. With victory in the men's competition, South Africa has now won four times in a row. This shows how well the South African GS community is preparing for this competition and training hard for it. Since the women's team also won this year's Trophy, Team South Africa has now achieved a total of five victories. Is it unbeatable?

No, it's beatable, but the future Trophy teams will have to make a huge effort if they want to make it in 2024. Until the final day of this year's competition, the results for both men and women were still completely open. On the men's side, the UK and Germany teams were pretty close together, while the China 2020 and USA teams were close to the top. This time, there were two Chinese teams, as Team China 2020 had already qualified for the GS Trophy 2020 in New Zealand, but was not allowed to travel to the event due to the corona outbreak. Two and a half years later, this team was also able to start the "ride of a lifetime" and they impressed with their driving skills and a good result.

In the women's classification, only one point separated South Africa and Germany after six days – so it could have been 50/50. But the last test is always tough, the toughest and most intense technique test of the whole week, and this is where the South Africans' thorough preparation tipped the scales – both in terms of individual skills and teamwork.

Also at this year's GS Trophy a lot of talent and a lot of skill were required, as can be seen from the even distribution of the points scored. The seven previous editions clearly showed that participating in this trophy would be a challenge. Many of the finalists in Albania had trained for years and had to pass several qualifiers to reach the necessary level of skill. They had to accept setbacks, learn from mistakes, build on their strengths and deepen their knowledge – after all, the GS Trophy is the motorcycle adventure par excellence.

Warren Ventner, Team South Africa: "We are thrilled to have won again; and everything depended on the last special stage. Now we are totally thrilled. It's so great to win for the fourth time. We were under pressure that we didn't want to be 'the' team that doesn't win in the end. We had decided to do our best and accept what was coming. We would also like to thank everyone who supported us from home. They really helped make this adventure possible."

Hanneli Zondagh, Women's Team South Africa: "It's just incredible. After day 6 we were only one point ahead of Germany and we were not the best on the last stage. Until the result was announced, we didn't know what the outcome would be. But somehow we managed to keep that one-point lead. I am overjoyed. Our result shows what teamwork can do if you just don't give up. It was a great competition. We also really enjoyed the time with the other women's teams, they were all fantastic and we had so much fun together!
When women discover motorcycling – this great sport – they quickly realize how liberating it is and how much fun it is to discover the world on a motorcycle, to get to know other people and other places, even in their own country. It's a wonderful thing."

The women's competition.

This year, BMW Motorrad decided that the women's teams should participate with their own classification and the number of participants was doubled. Six teams, each with two participants, drove the same routes and special stages as the men's teams, but held their own GS Trophy classification. This was a great success, because as at the international female qualifiers in 2017 and 2019, they showed themselves as a team on the trails and in the challenges and supported each other. They were fearless and also well prepared in terms of driving ability and mental strength, although many of them were significantly smaller than their male teammates. Her handling of the big BMW R 1250 GS motorcycle was also impressive.

These women are at the forefront of an ever-growing movement of women passionate about adventure motorcycle riding, and it's worth reading their stories to understand how the female GS scene is evolving.

Christelle van der Meulen, Team South Africa: "For me, the GS Trophy is a competition involving mind, soul and body. You overcome your fears, your concerns. My friends and coaches said to me, 'You can do it.' And practice is part of it; the more you practice, the smaller the bike gets and the longer your legs get – except sometimes in special situations when your legs get shorter again! I feel inspired by Esther (Pinzon) and Karyn (Julliard), who are also very small – and we're already standing on our toes – but they are real energy packages and it's incredible what they do on the R 1250 GS. I love watching them."

Tere Rivas, Team Latin America: "If putting your feet on the ground isn't an option, you need to improve your technique. I always laughed when the marshals said to us during a challenge: 'We don't count 'set foot here', so you can put your feet on the ground' – that wasn't an advantage for us, because every time we get our feet on the ground, the bike tilts."

Christelle: "Being here with Valeria (Zomazy) and Tere (Rivas) is a great feeling! We know each other from the International Female Qualifier 2019 in Spain, but did not make it to the last six. So we went home and trained. I believe that the mentality of not giving up is part of the GS spirit, but also our connection to each other, which has been created by the journey together. We mastered the trails together and they were there for me, helping me and supporting me when I was pretty much done. This is something very special. Of course, they also chased me in the competition – and that was pretty tough!"

The BMW R 1250 GS.

With this year's edition, the International GS Trophy returned to boxing power with the BMW R 1250 GS Trophy Competition. A total of 126 vehicles were specially prepared.

Special modifications with accessories from the BMW Motorrad range include:

• Metzeler Tyres Karoo 4
• Enduro underride protection
• Headlight guard
• Cylinder head cover
• Enduro footpegs of the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure
• Adjustable shift and foot brake levers
• Sport windscreen
• Rally seat
• Akrapovic silencer
• Tank bag small from the Adventure Collection

Kyle Robertson, Team United Kingdom: "This is a great and extremely versatile bike. We were able to switch from off-road driving on the trial tracks to effortless road kilometres and then swing through the curves of the mountain roads like a supersport machine. This bike has an answer to everything."

Esther Pinzon, Women's Team Latin America: "I have the
R 1250 GS really appreciated – I like the grip of the tyres, I like this bike. I think his responsiveness is fantastic, it's just perfect. Now I want one too! At home I have a G 650 GS, but now that I've ridden this bike, that's exactly what I need in my life. It's so easy and easy to drive."

Tere Rivas, Women's Team Latin America: "The GS keeps the balance, it's like fixed to the ground, so you can balance it really easily. Once she leans to the side, she quickly regains her balance and continues. It's pleasant to drive and you feel a bit protected by the boxer engine because you know it wouldn't smash your leg if it tipped over, because there's enough space."

Christelle van der Meulen, Women's Team South Africa: "This bike can do a lot. People around me always told me I could let them do all the work. It's really a great bike, very powerful."


Albania provided so many new experiences. With an area slightly smaller than Belgium and around 2.8 million inhabitants, i.e. about one fifth of the population of Belgium, Albania consists of half wilderness and half rural idyll.

The mountainous regions are characterized by 2,500 m high peaks, wide valleys, plateaus, mountain villages and the cowbell melodies of the flocks of sheep and goats. In the lowlands, the type of agriculture is striking, in which many of the farming activities between sowing and harvesting are still carried out manually with the help of scythes, picks and shovels and the harvest is transported by wheelbarrows, horse or donkey carts. Haystacks are piled up by hand and with pitchforks. It is almost a subsistence agriculture, the surplus of which is sold at roadside stalls. Donkeys and ponies can be found everywhere, obediently carrying wood, bags and children. And everywhere you encounter a certain dignity, patience and serenity.

The Albanians met the GS riders with enthusiasm and welcomed them, always smiling. The children ran into the street, waved and tried to get a high-five from the passing drivers. The GS riders, on the other hand, rode respectfully and carefully. They used their built-in BMW Motorrad communication systems to alert each other and drove slower.
Albania was a very special experience, an event that leaves memories behind – memories that all participants of the GS Trophy will keep for all eternity.

The International GS Trophy in the words of the participants.

Chowde Gowda, Team India: "These were great experiences, exceptional tracks, great terrain and wonderful hospitality; You just couldn't hope for more. Full five stars!"

"We prepared with intensive training and had no problems. We made it without injuries. You can't ask for more. We are happy with our result, although we were a bit disappointed that we slipped two places as the tenth-placed team after day 6 on the last day – and I messed it up! I was stuck and wanted to try a different track line; that triggered pressure and then it didn't work. But we have proven that we can drive competitively."

"We made new friends. Right on the first day we drove with Team USA and then with Team United Kingdom, both teams were very fun. Then we drove together with the Chinese, who were quite quiet but drove excellently. Later Latin America and Brazil, a fun group who taught us a little Spanish, but I wouldn't like to put on record what they taught us:) That's what this week is all about: meeting people from all over the world. I do not know, of course, whether we will ever visit all these countries; but in this way we had the chance to get to know their culture. We all come from different parts of the world and we have different perspectives. They were great encounters, nothing better could have happened to me!"

Benjamin Phaup, Team USA: "It was a fantastic week with a great closing party. I only had one crash in the whole week, at the finale in the rocks. It was incredible overall."

"On Day 3, we changed focus. Originally, we were here for the competition, but on the third day we said to ourselves: 'Anyway, let's have fun driving!' (Note: Team USA was ranked 10th at the time). We had a lot of fun! The challenges are only a few minutes of the day, so we made sure we could enjoy the long sections as well."

"And it was super cool to meet all these people – that was just the best. Before we got here, I didn't think about it at all. I had come for the competition, but then I realized that this whole event was about all the people here. That was really cool! I think I was so excited because I had come here without expectations in this regard. We had a really nice time because we got to know the people and made friends, I didn't expect that."

"It was just as great to get to know my teammates. We live 4,000 kilometers apart, which is as if we also lived in different countries. There are many subcultures in the US: Cory, for example, is a real Californian, while I come from Virginia. So we had to get to know each other a little bit to understand how the other ticks. We all do things in different ways, but it worked. And in the end we finished fifth, a great end to the week."

Roberto Arguedas, Team Latin America: "That was a week that felt like a month because you experienced so many things every hour. There was always an activity or a competition, something was constantly happening. For us it was a special week, with adventure rides, competitions, lots of exercise. I am a man of the mountains and I like this country, I like the animals; I remember how we came back to the mountains on day 4 and there were many sheep on the trail. I liked this moment – the landscape and the sound of the bells on the necks of the sheep, that does not exist in our country. I've seen something like this in movies, and now I finally see and hear it together with my comrades in reality – what a special moment."

Valeria Zomazy, Women's Team Mexico: "I'm overjoyed and proud of myself and my teammate Esther. We trained so hard that we were able to win the qualifier and participate in this GS Trophy. And we did it; I am proud that we have mastered all this. I return home so happy, to Mexico."

"We learned a lot about the GS spirit. I met Esther for the first time a month before the qualifier; after that, we were a team and the month before we came here, we were together every day to train and get involved with the bike. We are very happy about the podium place; it was a dream come true."

Miles Davis, Australia, Marshal: "I'm especially happy that I've been able to get to know some pretty crazy places that I probably never got to see. Here I met people who love the same things as me, whether it's the marshals or participants who all love adventure bikes and trail riding. I met so many people from so many countries that I would never have met otherwise. The connection you have when you get on the bike and go out on the trails, when you're with people all day, is great; and afterwards there is a drink at dinner. There are not many ways where you can enjoy such things unless you are a professional tour guide; but in contrast, the participants have won their place in this competition. That's exciting and really cool. I love it."

A word from BMW Motorrad management.

Stephan Reiff, Head of Customer, Brand, Sales at BMW Motorrad: "What an event! It's great what the riders can do and what our product – the R 1250 GS – can do. And what a country! I really enjoyed the nature, the hospitality and the friendship shown to us by the Albanians; and this applies both to the people we met on the trip and to the authorities, who helped us a lot in making this event happen."

"I am thrilled that we can implement such an event, which is like a huge product test. There are over 100 of the best GS riders in the world here and they show no restraint in testing this bike and I'm happy to say that we all did well. And the R 1250 GS – how can I describe it: a workhorse in the mountains and yet so elegant on the road."

Ralf Rodepeter, Head of Brand and Product BMW Motorrad: "Congratulations to the teams from South Africa, our winners, but also to all 21 teams on a week of fantastic motorcycle rides. For the first time there was a separate GS Trophy for women and it was absolutely amazing to see all the different teams competing with each other, who at the same time had the best time of their lives here in Albania."

"Now we are starting preparations for the next International GS Trophy 2024 – somewhere in the world ...! This means that the next qualifiers will take place in 2023; so apply, start training and maybe we'll see each other at the International GS Trophy in two years!"

Thank you very much.

Finally, we would like to say a word of thanks to all the people at the GS Trophy who the audience will probably never see, but who all participants got to know and whom they will always remember as the faces of their GS Trophy. To the Steffis and Natalies, to the Chris' and Toms and Kellys, to the Axels and Robs, Max, Markus and Sabrinas, to the Nanjas and Danjas, Lisa's, Pablos, to the Dorinas and Jans, to the other Markus' Amys and to the many darlings – the complete list would possibly include more than a hundred names. To all the people whose passion and commitment makes this whole event possible, a huge thank you.

BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy 2022 Southeast Europe.
Final ranking:

Men's teams:
1. South Africa 217 points
2. United Kingdom 204
3. Germany 185
4. China 2020 169
5. USA 165
6. Netherlands 155
7. Thailand 146
8. South Korea 142
9. Latin America 141
10. Mexico 139
11. France 133
12. India 120
13. China 2022 113
14. Brazil 100
15. Japan 88

Women's teams:
1. South Africa 297
2. Germany 296
3. Mexico 264
4. France 241
5. Latin America 237
6. Brazil 167

BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy
Winners of the individual editions

2022 Men: South Africa, Women: South Africa
2020 South Africa
2018 South Africa
2016 South Africa
2014 CEEU (Central and Eastern Europe)
2012 Germany
2010 United Kingdom
2008 USA