The Oceania 2020 edition of the International GS Trophy was one of the closest in the seven year history of the event but Team South Africa did us proud by recording their third consecutive GS Trophy win – making the country by far the most successful in the competition with their ‘threepeat’ performance.
After eight gruelling days, and with more than 2 500 km travelled over both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, Team South Africa emerged victorious from the seventh BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy, the Oceania 2020 edition, for the third consecutive time.
Altogether 22 international teams, with participants from over 40 countries, took on the challenge in the latest edition of this iconic adventure motorcycling competition. Held in the Southern Hemisphere Summer, the riders mostly enjoyed comfortable temperate conditions but more than once they also experienced the unique Kiwi phenomenon of “four seasons in one day”.
Overnight temperatures plummeted and the teams faced rain and wind as they tackled the trails. The GS riders also had to deal with huge altitude differences – from sea level on the North Island beaches to thousands of feet up the alpine passes on the South Island.
The riding days were typically long with early breakfast calls and routes taking up to 12 hours. When crossing the Cook Strait to reach the South Island, the start was an even earlier, at 03h30, and the riders became familiar with eating breakfast by the light of their head torches.
On the trails the riders experienced every terrain New Zealand can offer; from sandy beaches to gravel tracks, rocky passes, and a good number of river crossings. Their adventure riding skills and endurance were most certainly tested.
The new, parallel-twin BMW F850 GS, used for the first time on this year’s event, more than proved itself over the rugged terrain. It was also a delight to ride, with many riders complimenting the versatility and performance of the bike, and it proved fun to ride both on highway and on the trails.
Team SA wins. Again.
The Oceania 2020 edition was one of the closest competitions in the history of the event (although the one-point win the United Kingdom recorded over South Africa in 2010 still is closest ever). Going into the eighth and final day, three teams were still in contention for the win.
Less than 10 points split South Africa, Italy, and France, and after the first test of the day – when one of the South Africans suffered an uncharacteristic fall – the competition hung on the outcome of the final parcour test. Team South Africa rallied impressively, putting in three almost immaculate rides, while the need to attack led to Team France and Team Italy making mistakes.
Team South Africa took their third GS Trophy win, following on their victories in South East Asia and Central Asia. They were also runners-up in the 2014 North America and 2010 South Africa editions, marking them as the most successful nation in the history of the event.
However, our lads did not dominate proceedings. For the first three days the hard-riding Team South Korea headed the leader board, only losing the lead to Team France on Day Four. The South Africans were always in contention though, and from Day Five to the end they headed the leader board, if only by the slimmest margins.
Team Netherlands proved impressive on debut. Placed ninth after Day One, they improved daily and in fact were top scorers on the final day – lifting them to fourth overall, just five points off the podium. Other debutants did not fare so well. Team North Africa were down a man after one of their riders fractured his foot on Day Two.
The International female teams also did not fare as well as they desired but they rode strong and scored high on occasional tests. The high point for them was the marathon 440 km ride on Day Six when the two female teams, riding together, started and finished the day at the head of the pack – an impressive display of both technical riding and endurance.
In the end it was Team South Africa again, with solid preparation, excellent teamwork, a great sense of international camaraderie, and a fun attitude boosting them to victory. Team captain Brandon Grimsted said they had a fun week and thoroughly enjoyed the event.
“Holding a lead of just five points into the final day was scary and we were nervous, over-thinking everything. That led to problems in the penultimate test but we got back up and for the parcour final we set a fast time with super-clean riding and that won it for us.”
What about the GS Trophy experience? Says Nikki van den Spek from the International Female Team I: “The week has been amazing. We had a language barrier in our team – we are Colombian, French, Austrian, and Dutch – but we overcame this and together had a great experience, and now we know each other so well. For the girls, sometimes it was hard, but in the end they managed the bike very well and it was no big problem.”
“When we rode with the male teams you could see in the morning the men were thinking ‘hmm, we have to ride the whole day with the female team?!’ But after a short while everything was okay and they would say, ‘hey, you are great riders, we will have fun today!’ It is sad the event is now over.”
According to Mathias Horn from BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy, the event this year has been the biggest yet with the most participants and the longest distance. “It has been a challenge; the logistics have been immense but the event ran exactly to plan. I am delighted it has met and exceeded the expectations of the participants. The GS is not just a motorcycle, it is about connecting with the world, about a community, a shared passion, and so this event has so much to live up to.”
Final top ten standings: BMW GS Trophy Oceania 2020
- South Africa 394
- France 382
- Italy 380
- Netherlands 375
- South Korea 361
- Latin America 355
- Brazil 335
- Russia 316
- Mexico 295
- Argentina 278
Text: Supplied/Paul van Gass | Images: BMW Motorrad