Jan du Toit’s relationship with BMW and the GS model range goes back a long way. Not only has the South African been riding BMW motorcycles since 1986, but the first ever GS Challenge was actually staged on his farm in 2004. That event was initiated by Pieter de Waal (now Vice President, BMW Motorrad USA) and Deon Meyer (currently a best-selling crime author). With Jan’s Country TRAX business, he and his team of instructors have trained countless numbers of people to ride off-road, and he is extremely proud to host the second GS Trophy next month at his farm near Amersfoort in Mpumalanga.
“It is a huge privilege for us to host the second GS trophy here. In fact, it’s actually nostalgic that the Trophy is coming back to Country TRAX. The first GS Challenge was held here and I have since been involved with all the GS Challenges in South Africa and even one in Germany with Tomm Wolf. We’re hoping to offer Trophy participants a truly African experience with all the diversity this continent offers, including four seasons in one day, the ‘Big 5’ (lion, African elephant, Cape Buffalo, the leopard and the rhinoceros), not to mention snakes and mosquitoes!”
Jan grew up on a farm where the nearest asphalt was 25 miles (40 km) away. During the 1980s, he used every opportunity he had to explore his surroundings and the rest of South Africa on BMW motorcycles, starting on the R100RT, then a K100LT and since 1999 on a GS. The GS and more recently an HP2 Enduro took him to the rest of Africa, where he discovered many amazing places to ride off-road.
This experience and knowledge has helped Jan ensure that the lucky participants arriving at this year’s GS Trophy will get to experience a unique, authentic and diverse experience that will include visiting three African countries with around 1,200 miles (2,000 km) of riding, taking in five Game Reserves, two Nature Reserves and six different venues in total, with elevation ranges from sea level to around 6,500 feet (2,000 m). Furthermore, the individual challenges have been carefully planned in what Jan calls a “joint effort between Tomm’s German precision and my African unpredictability!”
Above all though, he is hoping that every participant will return home safely after a life-changing experience. This is something that organizer Tomm Wolf is certain of, having fallen in love with the African continent himself after many recent visits for BMW Motorrad, including the launch of the R1200GS in 2004, participating in the South African GS Challenge three times and having also taken part in Instructor Training there.
“I know and love this country very much – in fact it’s just perfect for riding GS bikes,” said the German off-road specialist who still instructs at the Hechlingen Enduro Park and can always be found at BMW Motorrad Days in Garmisch-Partenkirchen providing experiences for those new to BMW Motorrad’s Enduro range.
“I can be very happy that my hobby and my job has allowed me to ride all over the world, in every continent. When I was young I traveled to many North African countries and I also had the possibility very early on to enter Russia with BMW for the ‘Ride Paris – Beijing’. During the ‘Iron Curtain’ years I visited a lot of Communist countries like Hungary and Romania, and as a training instructor for BMW Rider Training I also visited North and South America and Asia.”
Tomm met Jan du Toit during 2004 and since then has been to Africa many times to participate in GS Challenges there. Consequently, it wasn’t a difficult decision to recommend South Africa as the ideal venue for the second International GS Trophy event. And having also participated in the 2008 Trophy in Tunisia, Tomm had many ideas on how he’d like to make this year’s event a very different experience.
“The GS Trophy in 2008 was a very nice event, but in only one country with nearly only one landscape. This year, we will be travelling around 2,000 km in extremely different styles of landscape. South Africa will be open and very wide; we’ll experience mountains, forests and great enduro landscapes in Swaziland, while in Mozambique, it will be sand all the way.”
There are many other differences with the 2008 event, according to Tomm’s plans, such as more traveling in small groups, where the participants will encounter various special stages in which they will not only have to demonstrate their riding skills, but also navigation skills and technical knowledge. For sure the teams will be fighting against each other but they will all be working to reach the end together as one big unit. Along the way, they will be passing through amazing landscapes, crossing rivers, muddy sections and sand, in very high temperatures and high humidity. Participants will need to be at their best – both physically and mentally – according to Tomm, who believes that everyone who is lucky enough to take part will keep these special memories forever.
“In my opinion the GS Trophy is the ‘Olympic Games’ for GS riders all around the world,” he says. “We are all very enthusiastic riders and sportsmen, and when I remember back to the first GS Trophy it was such an amazing experience to come together with people from so many different cultures and backgrounds, but all sharing the same love for GS bikes. To be able to ride these wonderful bikes in such amazing landscapes with people from many different countries is quite unique and makes you feel part of something special — especially in the 30th anniversary of this iconic motorcycle.”
You can catch up with organizer Tomm Wolf on October 29th when he will be doing a Live Chat on Facebook at 10:00 central European time (that’s 4:00 am EST for you early risers in the US). He’ll answer any of your questions about the second BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy.