We are all about our SUVs in India, and that's no surprise considering they are practical, built to last and they're perfect to tackle our potholed road surfaces. .Right from tiny Micro-SUVs to the mighty Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon, we love 'em all. Naturally, this also means that SUV Tyres are a major market and every big player in the world wants a piece of this pie. Among them, homegrown Apollo Tyres have been in the market for a while with their Apterra series. In a market filled with options, Apollo has been looking to gain a connect with their customers as brand loyalty can go a long way in improving business prospects in such a large market. In sync with this idea, came to life in 2019 the #BadRoadBuddies iniative, which turned out to be a cracker of an event.
The maiden BadRoadBuddies event took place in Goa over three days with almost 50 SUVs and their pilots in attendance. Before kicking off the event each SUV was fitted with a set of Apollo Apterras that were best suited to the vehicle. The next two days would cover city roads, highways, tight ghat sections, trails and a custom curated off road track, giving Apollo a chance to show off how their tyres perform in each of these conditions. At the outset of the event, one thing was clear, Apollo had set the bar for the HT series Apterra tyres high, and we had the next three days to decide whether they could surpass expectations or not.
Day One: Goa-Dandelli
At the crack of dawn, while the rest of Goa slept, 50 SUVs grouped up into 5 convoys and began to roll out. We got behind the wheel of a Tata Hexa fitted with downsized 16-inch Apollo Apterra OWL HT2s. Three sizes down from the standard 19 inches had me a little sceptical but I was about to be pleasantly surprised. A road closure en route meant that our convoy would have to backtrack through Goa and try to catch the others. Not wanting to miss out on the evening trail ride, I put my foot down and started to rope the leading convoy back in. Apollo might not have planned it but the Apterra were already on their first high-speed test and boy, they did rise to the occasion. I'm not going to get into specifics of how fast we were going but rest assured the Hexa was using every single of its 140 horses. On the highway, the one thing that I noticed was how quiet the Apterras were and with our windows rolled up the loudest sound in the cabin was heavy breathing from my mortified passenger. As we turned off the highway onto the western ghat that leads to Dandelli we realised that we were going to make it if we could keep the pace we had. It was a big ask from the tiny 16-inch tyres on the 2 tonnes plus SUV, but once again the Apterra rose to the occasion. Through every single tight section of the Ghats, the Apterra were not just coping, they were confident and indicating that there was still room to push. We didn't though and decided to spare our now queasy passenger. Our push had paid off as we managed to reach our destination with a few minutes to spare, beating Google Maps estimates by almost 50 mins. The rest of the afternoon was spent driving along a narrow dusty jungle trail. The Apterras were equally at home on the trail as grip was not an issue whether it was narrow corners or steep inclines. Everything was despatched with no real problems.
Our destination overlooked an estuary as it flowed into the Arabian Sea. We sat in silence sipping tea watching the sun set over what was easily one of the most breathtaking views I had ever seen. I'd put a smart line in here but Apollo's marketing team said it best ‘Bad roads (really do!) lead to good places’
Day 2 Dandelli -Quepem
Sunday was another early start as the convoys began their journey back into Goa. Serious off-road tracks laid out by Cougar Motorsport would be the highlight of today. The atmosphere was electric, not just because Cougar Motorsport are well known for their challenging off-road tracks but because the convoy would be joined by Apollo's brand ambassador the little master himself Sachin Tendulkar! Not a second was wasted on day 2 as the convoy tore through the ghats and set their sights on Goa.
This time we had ditched the big lunky Hexa in favour of the Nissan Kicks. Once at Quepem, having scarfed down breakfast we quickly made our way onto the tracks. This was all very serious stuff, and I was unsure of how much our little 2WD SUV would really be able to accomplish. Once again, to my good fortune, I was pleasantly surprised! Whether it was articulating around tight downhill turns or climbing steep dusty slope or descending down the other side, the Kicks did it all, with no fancy HDC or surface dependent driving modes. In fact, we never even needed to turn the traction control off. This was MT territory and the Apterra had conquered it with just as much grace as they had on the highway. They were truly impressive!
With the Bad Road Buddies Programme, Apollo had set out to connect to their customer base and they had! The event came to end with the promise that this was just the first of many similar events under the newly created Bad Road Buddies banner. A genuinely good product paired with a great outreach programme has always been the ingredients for success and on that score, I think we are going to see a lot more from Apollo Tyres in the near future. After all, seeing an Indian company doing well in a market filled with global giants is indeed a pleasant feeling for every Indian.