The Audi Q drive happened at namma Chennai from 15 to 17 Nov 2013.
A specially prepared off road track at Sholinganallur saw half a dozen Audi SUVs do some off-road feats. Audi Chennai's customers and enthusiasts gathered for this event. Yours truly got invited for this event; its a moment for me to hone my clicks of these high end luxury cars.
Though I had come to know, Nov 15th to 17th as the event dates, from Audi Chennai, few weeks in advance, the place of the event was not fixed then. So, I could not make a firm plan to go. Though the day 15th came in and 16th too passed by, there were no info for me and I could not get set to go. The last day was 17th, a Sunday.
Sunday being an off day from work, 17 Nov was a day for me to enjoy an extended sleep. I got off from my sleep by 8.00 a.m. rather than the usual 5.00 a.m. on work days. Its time to enjoy the full day at home. As there was no buzz to me, I did not give a thought on the Audi Q Drive. The only itinerary for the day was to get my Royal Enfield Bullet back from my mechanic. It was ready after all the required service and tunings, the previous day. After an hour of finishing off my morning routine, enjoyed a hot brew of coffee while browsing through the day's newspaper. This has been my usual way on a week's off. It was after an hour, something struck my head to check the mobile phone. My mobile gets sms whenever my FaceBook inbox gets a message.
A sms had arrived at 12.20 a.m. as my FB had received a message from Audi Chennai; its an invite for me to attend the Audi Q drive. The venue is Taj Gateway on the OMR at Sholinganallur in Chennai. It was 9.30 a.m. that I saw this message. This day had three schedule: 9.00 a.m., 11.30 a.m. & 2.30 p.m. The last one at 2.30 p.m. has the probability for me to dash to.
The place being a 4 hour bus journey for me and the time being 9.30 a.m. its too tight a schedule. Though I was still a cat on the wall on whether to go for this Q-Drive, I made sure that the batteries of my camera & mobile phone are plugged in for recharging. Before I could decide on going, I just went to take a cool bath in the shower. My anxious mind definitely needed a chill to decide on what to do next. Go? Or Drop?
The message had a perk, that, I was extended to experience driving the cars as well click photographs. My day's actual plan of bringing back my Bullet from the mechanic is now a cat on the wall. He would be opening his shop just for delivering my Bull. So, coming back after a refreshing bath, I first called my mechanic to know whether he has left his home to arrive at his shop. He quips that, he is about to leave his house. I then decided not to take the bike and postpone it by a day. I asked him to stay home and let him deliver my bike the next day. He nods.
Now I firm up that I am dashing to Chennai. Being an auspicious day of Karthigai Deepam, my wife was busy making the food. I could take the food only after the prayer ritual is finished at home.
It was a sprinter of sort for the next one hour. As the batteries were getting recharged, I hot press my shirt; After a hard search, I located my back pack, threw in the camera, an extra charging unit for the camera and mobile phone and ear phones. The battery is still getting recharged, though; Ensured my wife fill a litre of water in a bottle and put it inside my back pack. Grabbed a piece of cotton, made it wet and finished cleaning my shoes. Now came and sat before the computer to check my FaceBook. Ensured that everything is ready, that too, this quick, just within an hour !
Now, my wife gives me a shout out that lunch is ready. The next 15 minutes, prayer ritual was finished and I push the food down my throat and ready to go; Wear my attire and whiz to the shoe stand and finally I am ready to go.
Now its a rush hour sort for me. While the clock struck 11.00 a.m. I successfully caught the bus to Pondicherry. I was more than relieved! After Pondy I hopped on to the ECR route bus to Chennai. As the clock crossed 2.30 p.m. the bus neared the Sholinganallur junction on the ECR. I alight and go into the road leading to left to get into a bus or share auto to go to Sholinganallur junction on the OMR to reach the hotel Taj Gateway.
But, all that captivated me was a Audi Q7 car parked on the sides of the road with few people inside. From the lot of mud on all sides of the vehicle, I was sure that the folks inside should have been off from the previous Q Drive event (11.30 a.m). I went near them and had a pep talk. Found that they are personnel of Audi Chennai and have just left off from the 11.30 a.m. schedule. They seemed to be heading for lunch. From them I got the Where? and When? of the 2.30 p.m. schedule and caught a MTC bus and went to the Sholinganallur junction on the OMR.
After alighting from the MTC bus, as I turned to the right, I got to see “GATEWAY” which was clearly visible though it was far away. After a few minutes of walk, I reached the Taj Gateway. The hotel is awesome and I arrived at the hall hosting the Audi Q Drive event.
Later came to know that Ms.Pawan was the person heading the marketing team and she was the one communicating with me so far through FaceBook. She had gone for lunch. I was then guided to the place where snacks and tea were being served. After topping up my half empty stomach with veg puffs and tea, I come back and get settled to see the video of the Audi cars being shown on a screen.
Later I walked through the hall to do few clicks. There were few miniature cars kept in a table along with Audi branded merchandise such as back packs, caps, etc., I then settled on a chair to view the film on Audi cars cruising the Himalayas. It’s a WOW moment, to realize that these cars are capable of climbing those challenging heights!!
Later Ms.Pawan comes in and I get introduced. She passed instruction to her people to get me registered to drive the Q cars of Audi. After filling the form and handing out my driving license for copying, I was issued a wrist band. People who are going to drive the cars at the event were needed to wear the wrist band as a distinct identification.
I was eying this Q Drive event just to click the higher end Audi cars while they do off road adventures. But my desire got me a lucky chance to drive them too! A first time experience in my life.
As far as off roading experience is concerned, I had gone as a co-passenger on my friend Siva’s Mahindra Classic Jeep some 5 years. It was rocky off road drive on the rocky ravines of Tada. But higher end luxury cars, that too driving them, have neither be my chance so far. I have seen them at a distance. Thats all. Not even touched them!
The event started with a briefing about the Q-Drive...
Two racing champions M/s Aditya Patel and Gaurav Dalal pitched in to give the participants on the hows? and whats? of driving.
From the briefing, I got to know few new things...
- Your hands should hold the steering at the 9'0 and 3'0 clock position.
- In the event of you, crashing your car, there are so much of explosives in front of you. Seat belt prevents you getting thrown into those explosives.
So, always wear a seat belt.
- The head rest in the driver seat of a car is not for resting your head. It is to safeguard the back side of your head in case a collision happens from behind.
- The steering should not be too far away. Your arms should be about 90 degrees while you are holding your steering. If not, move your seat and make yourself get into the correct posture.
I got into the pilot car driven by the former national racing champion Gaurav. I sat in the seat behind the navigator Aditya Patel, an ace racer. The convoy started off. Instructions from Aditya, for all the people behind the wheels came in through the radio.
After a ten minute drive on the Chennai roads, the convoy got into a place which had a vast open ground with slush, a moat, plenty of pot holes and a big pool of mud water on one side. A perfect and complete off road experience awaited us.
All that is needed to test the off road skill were presented to us. Now, the pilot car entered into the first test - pot holes; then all were needed to do sharp curves; drive into slush and make their way back and stop at a point where there is a slope leading to the mud water at a depth of about 5 feet.
Now one by one, the cars were made to do the maneuvers.
While the cars turn into downward slope, the front right wheel would be at a position below and the rear left wheel dangles at a feet or two above the ground. This is the when I became awe struck. After that, the cars needed to be driven into the muddy water and finally come back to the starting point.
Now, the churning on my stomach got a little rest as the car stopped at the start line for the next round.
Then all people were asked to change their seats. I wanted not to drive immediately. I was eager to freeze the puzzling moments of the faces of people who are taking into the challenging experiments for the first time. But then Gaurav suggested me to try the pilot Q5 and then I photograph the adventures. This seducing offer changed my mind and I switched off my camera, pushed into my pocket and readily entered into the driver seat of the Q5.
At the first moment I was in for a puzzling moment. The key which were usually provided on the right side below the steering was not there in this car. Though I was used to driving cars, I am a newbie to such an advanced machine. I was in for a perplex.
Luckily Gaurav reaches to my side, opens the door and gives me the instructions.
How to start the car?
Gaurav signals me to press the brake pedal and press the key which is located on the dashboard on the left side below the steering. Now the beast comes to life with its engines churning a music. The engine sound was similar to a split air conditioner machine getting switched on.
As there was nobody else, I was in for a dismay. Luckily an experienced personnel took his occupancy into the car. Now I am relieved of my panic. He gives instruction that I should never use my left foot; only my right foot should be used; either on the accelerator to push the vehicle forward or on the brake to stop the movement. It was now I turn my head below to look on what are the controls provided. I was in for another surprise; there were only two pedals – accelerator and a brake; the usual third pedal on the left extreme i.e. the clutch is not there! I now become fully aware that I am sitting inside a car made my German Engineers!
Then I try to shift to first gear. Another surprise awaited me. What seemed to be a gear was not a gear. It is a shifter and we needed to press the switch and shift it to the mode we were needed to. I was asked to shift it to "F" (Forward)
Then, I pressed my right foot on the accelerator gently, the car moved forward. A wonderful experience. First time I am driving such a sophisticated higher end luxury car.
Whenever I take on a new kind of vehicle, be it a two wheeler or a four wheeler, I make it a point to first check its brakes. Its my habit. This adds my confidence level and it is also a safe practice too. Now as I touch the brake pedal, the car comes to a sudden stop with a jerk. Ohh! I have pressed it harder. Then I get used with the CAR. Now as I further pressed the accelerator, the car moves forward. Then I try the steering. After turning it to right and left I get used to it. Now familiar with the accelerator, brake and steering I am more confident and ready to go.
I then drive the Audi car above the specially designed pot holes and then make a turn as instructed. The car was so much comfortable. What looked like a big pot hole on the slush to my eyes, do not seem so big when my car was moving on it. Then came the slush and small pools of mud water. Though I was expecting it to be hard to drive the car through those obstacles, the vehicle moved in with so much ease.
Wowww! Its too nice experience.
I was in the line for taking up the real test of maneuvering into the 5 feet slope. My mind was in for a mystery. What if I am not doing it properly? What if I topple the car?
As the two cars before me crossed past the challenging course, it was my turn. I moved the car to the right little by little. As the front right wheel was going downwards into the slope, my stomach is again in for a little churn. But, apart from the car being in an angle, I did not feel any thing awry. Instructions came in through the radio to turn either left or right and I followed them. At one point, the car is very high on its left and too low on its right. It was an awesome experience.
After moving it for a few feet, I was asked to turn right and into the mud pool. The pool is so much of slush and I was having fear that the car would get struck.
But none of the cars got struck in this mud pool. Real SUVs!!
As the mud water receded, there was a slope on the left through which I needed to go to the place where I started. Having experienced all the challenges, turning to the left on to a upward slope is now a much easier task. I turned to left and pressed the gas and the car moved into the place where I wanted it to be.
A first time life experience. AWESOME!! THRILLING!
Then I stopped the engines and came out of the car. The experience of driving by sitting inside the car was similar to sitting before a play station and playing a car game. So much of sophistication & comfort.
But now as I come out of the car and stand at its front, it still give me a beastly look. Another person climbs in and turns the steering. As the huge wheels make a turn to its side, it seem to be a mammoth task being done by the driver inside the car. But having experienced myself, it was actually a child's play! Is that the professionalism of the German Engineering? Is it the "Truth in Engineering". Yes, it really is!
The first time SUV driving did not seem so hard as I was expecting it to be...
I moved a little away and stood aside on the ground to prepare for my photography. It took few minutes to the understand the pattern of the people experiencing the off drive. Then my clicks got me some interesting adventurous photographs.
After a few minutes, my mind pesters on why not try another time. Now, a car comes to the home position and the person goes off. I saw it being idle for so long. I go and try another chance. Now, I find it more amusing to drive the same course. Its less challenging and more of thrill. I completed it with much ease.
After some time, many customers of Audi Chennai arrived and waited taking turns for experiencing the off road drive.
Every one of us were ferried back to the Taj Gateway hotel. Had a hot tea sitting near a table. A surprise awaited me when I was presented with a photo that was taken just an hour back.
The photograph was so good. The Audi Chennai people were too courteous to provide the photos in my pendrive too.
Though there were many probabilities for an untoward incident in such a kind of event, the folks behind the show were too professional in handling the show. Thanks folks for making this event a memorable experience.
Thank you Pawan! A great time with your Audi Chennai team
There were many photographs which I took. Please do visit here to glimpse the whole set in my FaceBook album.