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PR: Land Rover Silk Trail Expedition

silk trail

I provided PR and writing services to Land Rover’s brand Range Rover in my role as Account Director for automotive PR agency PFPR Communications. This included co-planning creative PR concepts and strategy; researching and writing press information kits, press releases, presentations and speeches; and on-the-ground reporting, for social media and press releases, from events such as Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in America and the Silk Trail Expedition, looked at here.

Background

When the first Range Rover Hybrid model was launched, with a conventional three-litre diesel engine supplemented by a 35Kw electric motor, one key PR message was the vehicle’s uncompromised capabilities. To demonstrate these, Land Rover invited journalists to participate in parts of the Silk Trail Expedition, a final validation test for the new model before it was signed-off for production. This was a 52-day, 10,472-mile trek from Land Rover’s home in Solihull in the UK to Mumbai in India, one of the toughest driving challenges in the brand’s history.

For much of its distance, the expedition followed the legendary Silk Road trading routes that first connected Asia with Europe more than 2,500 years ago. After passing briskly through England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Poland, an arduous path was taken across the Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Tibet, Nepal and India. Challenging conditions included asphalt and dirt roads with cavernous potholes, mud tracks made sticky by torrential rain, dusty desert trails in extreme heat, cattle trails strewn with rocks and boulders, narrow passes clinging to mountain-edges, and the cold thin air of altitudes up to 17,648 feet.silk trail mountain track

 

My role

Before this adventure began, I helped shape key messages for the PR strategy; researched and wrote technical information about the vehicle for the media; and researched and wrote background information about the Silk Trail route.

On the expedition itself I was a team member, working 18 to 20 hours per day for 53 consecutive days. Key tasks were writing extended captions for photos made available online to media at the end of every day’s driving; writing daily summaries for internal distribution at Land Rover; writing regular press releases reporting on the expedition’s progress; providing visiting journalists with background notes about the territories they were driving through; and writing content for a presentation made in Mumbai by senior Land Rover executives at the successful conclusion of the expedition.

My press releases, accompanied by photos from the expedition taken by Nick Dimbleby, gained regular global media coverage throughout the eight weeks of the expedition in print and online, and always with a strongly positive sentiment.

By scrolling down, you can see examples of weekly press releases I wrote for Land Rover during the expedition . . .

 

First Range Rover Hybrid Models Take On Epic ‘Silk Trail’ To IndiaRR_Hybrid_Silk_Trail_Update1_280813_04_LowRes (2)

  • Range Rover Hybrid capabilities to be demonstrated on epic ‘Silk Trail 2013′ expedition
  • Trio of prototype hybrids to tackle marathon 9,950 mile (16,000km) endurance drive
  • 53 days final development test drive will cross 12 countries en route to India
  • 1885 miles (3,034km) completed so far.

Demonstrating Land Rover’s legendary capability, its latest model, the Range Rover Hybrid is being put through its final engineering sign-off drive on a gruelling 9,950 mile endurance expedition.

The test, proving the new Range Rover Hybrid as the world’s most capable hybrid, set off from the home of Land Rover in Solihull, UK on August 22 and will travel overland for more than seven weeks through Europe, Russia and Asia to Mumbai, India – arriving on October 15.

The Silk Trail is a historical network of interlinking trade routes which connected East, South and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world. Extending 4,000 miles (6,437km), the Silk Trail gets its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade which was carried out along its length and became a significant factor in the development of the civilisations in Asia & Europe from 206BC until the late 14th Century.

Silk Trail 2013 Expedition Leader, Dougie Dale said: “We are delighted with progress so far, but the European leg is the easy part with good road networks – this has allowed us to use the Hybrid system to great effect predominantly in urban areas. As the expedition heads towards Eastern Europe and beyond over the next week, we expect the terrain to toughen and we will really start to use the Range Rover Hybrid’s uncompromised capability.”

The Silk Trail expedition is divided into 10 stages and is scheduled to visit France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Nepal and India.  The Range Rover Hybrids are being driven by teams of Land Rover development engineers and specially invited media from 10 countries in Europe and other nations along the route.

“The 53 day expedition will cross 12 countries and tackle some of the world’s most challenging roads, passes and trails, including part of the ancient, 4,000 mile Silk Road which connected Asia with the Mediterranean.  This event is the latest in Land Rover’s proud history of going ‘above and beyond'” said John Edwards, Land Rover Global Brand Director.

On Monday 26th August the crews and vehicles paused in Berlin, Germany, after completing 833 miles (1,340km) of the route.  Over time, Berlin has become a symbolic meeting point between western and eastern Europe, reflecting the Silk Trail’s linking of the western world with the far east in earlier centuries.  The 1,094 mile (1,760km) Stage 2 drive to Cracow (Poland) and Odessa (Ukraine) starts Wednesday 28thAugust.

“A stunning combination of mountain passes, arid desert, high altitude, chaotic city streets, heat, humidity and wilderness will provide the perfect testing ground for our first hybrid.  Our engineers are using this adventure as the final development drive before the official sign-off for series production later this year,” added Edwards.

Wildly varying conditions will present the crews and vehicles with tough challenges which Land Rover confidently anticipates the new hybrid’s peerless four-wheel drive and acclaimed Terrain Response® 2 will overcome.

“Land Rover has been exploring the planet since the debut of its first model in 1948.  With the new Range Rover Hybrid, the world’s first premium diesel SUV hybrid, combining significantly lower CO2 emissions with uncompromised performance, the Silk Trail 2013 expedition expresses Land Rover’s commitment to its vehicles as well as to the environment,” concluded Edwards.

 

Range Rover Hybrid Proves Its Worth Through Urban Centres In Europe As Silk Trail Expedition Continues To MumbaiRR_Silk_Trail_2013_19_LowRes (2)

  • Trio of Range Rover Hybrid prototypes successfully complete first urban stages of epic ‘Silk Trail 2013′ expedition
  • Hybrid capabilities already tested in seven countries, covering over 2,770 miles (4.468km) in 12 days
  • Five countries and 41 days to go on marathon 9,950 mile (16,000km) endurance drive
  • Fantastic new imagery and film added to media website.

The three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes participating in the Silk Trail expedition have now passed through seven countries in Europe in little more than a week. Since starting the 10,000-mile (16,000 km) adventure from Land Rover’s home in Solihull, UK on the afternoon of Thursday 22 August, the convoy has progressed south through the UK, east through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, and south-east through Poland and the Ukraine.

This expedition will visit 12 countries and takes in some of the world’s most challenging roads, passes and trails, including part of the ancient, 4,000 mile Silk Road connecting Asia with the Mediterranean. These are the first hybrids to ever attempt this challenging route.

This first section was always expected to be the most straightforward part of an otherwise ambitious journey, with the toughest challenges still ahead – but even so, the route has already presented the vehicles with the stresses of urban congestion, the hazards of some poorly maintained former Eastern Bloc roads and the first of many official border-crossings.

In London, Brussels, Dusseldorf, and Berlin, the Range Rover Hybrids made short work of dense rush-hour traffic, their 35kW (47 bhp) electric motors automatically taking over from the V6 diesel engine at urban speeds to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Combined with command driving position, smooth ride and luxury cosseted cabin, progress in the  Range Rover is effortless.

In the historic city centres of Krakow and Lemberg in Poland, where traffic runs nose-to-tail over ancient roads made bumpy by cobbles and tramlines, the Range Rover also impressed occupants with the suppleness of its ride. Even with the vehicles fully laden – load areas, rear seats and roof-racks piled high with heavy expedition gear – the air-suspension gracefully absorbed the bumps.

With most of the urban journey over for now, the expedition is now poised to enter Russia, where it will spend the next six days before crossing the border into Kazakhstan.

 

Off-Road Capabilities of Range Rover Hybrids Put To Test As Silk Trail Expedition Progresses Towards MumbaiRR_Silk_Trail_2013_Update_3_110913_05_LowRes (2)

Weekly highlights from Land Rover’s Silk Trail 2013 expedition, travelling 10,000 miles from Solihull, UK, to Mumbai, India and taking-in the legendary Silk Road trading route that first connected Asia with Europe more than 2,000 years ago. This epic journey is the final validation test for prototypes of the new Range Rover Hybrid before the model is signed-off for production.

  • Trio of Range Rover Hybrid prototypes tackle torrential rain on ice-slippery dirt tracks across the Russian prairies and grasslands
  • The Silk Trail 2013 expedition reaches Astrakhan on the Volga River, ready to confront the deserts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
  • A distance of 4,250 miles (6,800 km) covered by Hybrids in just 15 days
  • Spectacular  photography of journey so far on Land Rover media website

The Silk Trail 2013 expedition, after continuing eastwards for two weeks from its starting point at Land Rover’s home in Solihull in the UK, has reached the city of Astrakhan in eastern Russia.

The three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes have travelled through the Ukraine and much of Russia on a mixture of asphalt highways and rutted dirt roads in the past week.

Through Europe, the Silk Trail expedition’s route has mostly followed asphalt roads, often encountering traffic congestion in towns and cities where the Hybrid’s electric motor has quietly paid fuel economy dividends.  In contrast, crossing the Ukraine and Russia, many hours have been spent negotiating dirt roads that would be impassable to most other types of vehicle, demonstrating the Hybrid’s supreme off-road capability.

In the beautiful Mediterranean-style mountains between the Black Sea resorts of Sevastopol and Yalta in the Ukraine, the expedition took a short-cut off-road tackling chalky dirt tracks carved-out during the Second World War.

At one of the many bays on the Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, the three Range Rover Hybrids ventured onto wild, windswept beaches which included stretches of deep sand. Through the Kalmykiya region of Russia, traditionally farmed by nomads, the convoy crossed vast, open prairies and grasslands on roads where the mud surface had been turned to slippery slurry by heavy rains. Here, the expedition vehicles made their way through a landscape where no other vehicles, buildings or people could be seen in any direction.

In the tricky driving conditions created by the mixture of water and mud, some drivers chose to leave Terrain Response in the Auto mode, others manually selected the Mud & Ruts setting – and all had to concentrate hard, picking a way through deep puddles and severe ruts.

During a stop to clean the mud-coated vehicles in the town of Astrakhan, located on 11 islands in the upper part of the Volga Delta, there has been time for the participants to appreciate the first signs of west meeting east. Here the architecture and the people are a mix of European and Asian. The expedition is now close to the cultural and commercial crossroads between Europe and Asia and the roads of the legendary Silk Trail.

The vehicle checks also confirmed the Range Rover Hybrids’ continuing reliability – the only repairs required so far have been the replacement of one punctured tyre and one chipped windscreen.

This expedition will visit 12 countries and takes in some of the world’s most challenging roads, passes and trails, including part of the ancient, 4,000 mile Silk Road connecting Asia with the Mediterranean. These are the first hybrids to ever attempt this challenging route and during  this week, the expedition will venture into the deserts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and then  into Kyrgyzstan, accumulating another 2,000 miles (3,200km) as it continues east into Asia.

 

Range Rover Hybrids On The Silk Trail 2013 Expedition Reach The Ancient Silk Roads, Half-Way To Their Mumbai Destinationsilk trail 5

Weekly highlights from Land Rover’s Silk Trail 2013 expedition, travelling 10,000 miles from Solihull, UK, to Mumbai, India and taking-in the legendary Silk Road trading route that first connected Asia with Europe more than 2,000 years ago. This epic journey is the final validation test for prototypes of the new Range Rover Hybrid before the model is signed-off for production.

  • The Silk Trail 2013 expedition has covered 5,226 miles (8,411 kilometres), half the distance of the epic journey from Solihull, England to Mumbai, India
  • The three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes reach the ancient Silk Roads in the deserts of central Asia after 20 gruelling days
  • Only four punctures and one cracked windscreen despite punishing conditions
  • Remarkable record of expedition in photographs and video on Land Rover media website

The Silk Trail 2013 expedition has reached the half-way point from its starting point at the home of Land Rover in Solihull, UK, to its destination in Mumbai, India.

Twenty days after setting-out, the three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes vehicles have reached the deserts of central Asia on the ancient Silk Roads that inspired the name and route of this epic journey.

The convoy has covered 5,226 miles (8,411 kilometres) and in its third week it travelled through Kazakhstan and much of Uzbekistan, lands of Arabic and Oriental people and cultures.

The Range Rover Hybrids, in their final validation test before sign-off for production, have taken in their stride a variety of punishing conditions: asphalt surfaces riddled with deep potholes and layered with small stones; mud tracks that have been dry and rutted or wet and slippery; and dusty desert trails sometimes hard as gravel and sometimes soft as sand.

While coping assuredly with such mixed terrains, in temperatures ranging from 17 to 43 degrees Centigrade, the seven vehicles have demonstrated outstanding reliability and between them suffered just one cracked windscreen and four punctures. Unlike other hybrids, the Range Rover carries a full-size spare wheel and tyre.

With its parallel 3.0-litre SDV6 diesel engine and 35kW (47bhp) electric motor, the Range Rover Hybrid models have returned impressive fuel economy for a vehicle so spacious and powerful – and so heavily laden, including roof-rack mounted expedition equipment. Fuel Economy has been put to the test on the water-logged mud tracks of the Kalmykiya grasslands in eastern Russia, so sticky that they were impassable to other vehicles,  yet the vehicles are still recording more than 40 mpg on asphalt highways and busy urban roads through Russia and Uzbekistan.

With 29 days to go to reach Mumbai, the convoy rested on its 23rd day in Uzbekistan’s capital city, Tashkent. The second half of this ambitious journey will feature the deserts, highlands and lowlands of Kyrgyzstan and China; winding tarmac roads climbing high into the thin cold air of the Himalaya mountain range; and a gradual descent through the lush greenness of Nepal to the hot plains of India. The expedition is due to enter Kyrgyzstan, the 11th of 14 countries on the Silk Trail 2013 route, two days after leaving Tashkent.

 

Three Range Rover Hybrid Prototypes Climb High Into The Kyrgyzstan Mountains Whilst On The Ancient Silk Trail Route To Mumbaisilk trail mountain track

  • Silk Trail 2013 expedition progresses from the hot deserts of Uzbekistan to the high mountains of Kyrgyzstan
  • Three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes demonstrate supreme all-terrain capabilities on deeply muddy mountain ascents and rocky cattle trails
  • Driving to 13,035 feet (3,973 metres) above sea level, cars and expedition team members are tested in preparation for even greater heights when crossing the Himalayas
  • Progress impeded only by punctures, the expedition has now covered 6,332 miles (10,190 kilometres) from Solihull – approximately 4,300 miles (6,900 kilometres) to go to Mumbai
  • Expedition photographs and video on Land Rover media website

Three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes have progressed from the hot deserts of Uzbekistan to the high mountains of Kyrgyzstan as the Silk Trail 2013 expedition is poised to enter China.

The  vehicles have blazed a trail in the last week across dusty desert roads running parallel to the legendary Silk Trail trading route, held back only by a time-consuming border crossing out of Uzbekistan, before  progressing eastwards through the spectacular high-altitude mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

The fourth week of the expedition’s two-month journey began in Uzbekistan’s capital city Tashkent, for centuries a stopping post for Silk Road merchants, missionaries and mercenaries.  The expedition then entered Kyrgyzstan, the 11th of the 14 countries on its route.

Here, the Range Rover Hybrids and their drivers faced the toughest tests of the expedition so far. Heading into the Fergana mountain range, the vehicles tackled narrow and rutted mud tracks in darkness. It was only 12 miles to the clearing on top of a hill where tents would be pitched for the night, but covering that short distance took several hours. Following heavy rains, the steeply-inclined roads were so wet and muddy that even the most capable hybrid four-wheel-drive vehicles in the world had to fight their way forward yard-by-yard.

The expedition’s additional test this week has been high altitudes. One day the convoy drove into icy winds above the snowline at 5,875 feet (1,760 metres), looking down on a cloud-layer and soaring eagles. Next day the road climbed higher still, to 11,000 feet (3,350 metres), reaching a vast meadowland plateau. Two days later the expedition took rocky cattle trails to an altitude of 13,035 feet (3,973 metres), where the team’s medical expert checked each individual’s heart rate and blood-oxygen saturation levels, in anticipation of possible altitude sickness when the convoy later crosses the Himalayas.

Descending from these great heights towards the Kyrgyzstan capital, Bishkek, the Range Rover Hybrids were often able to travel on their electric motors only, gliding downhill in near-silence, the braking for hairpin bends enough to regenerate the battery’s charge.

Moving east from Bishkek, the Silk Trail 2013 expedition will spend one more night in Kyrgyzstan before crossing the border into China.

 

Range Rover Hybrid Prototypes Drive Through Nepal Towards India, The Fourteenth And Final Country In The Silk Trail 2013 Expedition’s Epic JourneyRR_Silk_Trail_2013_Update_7_091013_02_LowRes (2)

  •  Range Rover Hybrid prototypes leave behind the Himalayas for the hot and humid plains approaching the Nepal-India border
  • Dense traffic and erratic drivers are the new daily hazard facing the expedition
  • The final country of 14 on the expedition now beckons
  • Over 9,600 miles (15,500 kilometres) driven since leaving Solihull, with 1,060 miles (1,700 kilometres) further to Mumbai
  • Photographs and video on Land Rover media website

The Silk Trail 2013 expedition prepared to enter the fourteenth and final country on the epic journey from Solihull to Mumbai when it passed through Nepal and reached the town of Mahendranagar on the border with India.

Leaving behind high altitudes and the peaks of the Himalayas, the three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes were driven on flatter but more hazardous roads, passing paddy fields and rain forests.

The heat and humidity, and the density and unpredictability of the traffic, have been increasing every day. The responsiveness of the Hybrid engine to the driver’s throttle commands, and its ability to accelerate strongly, enabled safe overtaking manoeuvres on roads busy with trucks and buses.

The seventh of the expedition’s eight-week journey started by crossing a deep river ravine on the Friendship Bridge connecting the town of Zhangmu in China with the village of Kodari in Nepal. One-by-one the Range Rover Hybrids were given permission to drive slowly across the bridge with the passengers required to follow them over on foot.

On the other side of the bridge lay a journey to Kathmandu of merely 85 miles – but the traffic was so dense, and the roads so severely potholed, that the Range Rover again had to draw on its reserves of acceleration and its class leading (590mm) wheel articulation to ride smoothly over the bumps. Even so, this short distance took three hours to drive – an indication of the challenges that would lie ahead in the next week on Nepal’s hazardously busy roads.

The next leg of the journey, from Kathmandu to Pokhara, a town surrounded by three of the ten highest mountains in the world, was a 127-mile stretch of road demanding eight hours of unwavering concentration. Every foot of road space was contested by bicycles, tricycles, horse-drawn carts, scooters, motorbikes, cars, mini-buses, buses, trucks, roving cows, slow-moving water buffalo, loose dogs, and fearless pedestrians.

The Range Rover’s commanding driving position was invaluable, allowing drivers to see further down the road and recognise hazards sooner. The need for regular braking also kept the Hybrid motor’s battery recharged, ensuring that it assisted the 3-litre SDV6 diesel engine and further improved fuel economy despite the ever-changing pace of driving.

The three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes then were ready to cross the bridge over the Mahakali River and into India, for the final 1,000 miles to the expedition’s destination, the city of Mumbai.

 

Land Rover Completes World’s First Hybrid Expedition Along Silk Trail From Solihull To MumbaiSilkTrail_Final_030_lead_image_LowRes (2)

  • Three Range Rover Diesel Hybrid prototypes complete 10,472 miles along the Silk Trail from Solihull, home of Land Rover, to Mumbai, home of Jaguar Land Rover’s owners, TATA
  • Journey covered 53 days, 13 countries and two continents putting the Range Rover Hybrid prototypes through their final extreme engineering sign-off test
  • Tested to the limits in temperatures from -10 degrees to 43 degrees Celsius at altitudes of 5500 metres and over every type of terrain
  • First foreign-registered cars to drive China’s Xinjiang-Tibet highway
  • Land Rover’s first ever production hybrid to go on sale in first quarter 2014 (selected markets only)

Mumbai, 14 October 2013. Three Range Rover Diesel Hybrid prototypes have completed the ultimate engineering sign-off test by traversing 13 countries over 53 days from Solihull, UK, to Mumbai, India. It is the world’s first ever hybrid expedition along the Silk Trail and one of the boldest driving adventures ever pursued by Land Rover.

Hostile conditions on the route included asphalt roads riddled with vast and deep potholes, dusty desert trails in 43°C heat and numerous miles of mud and gravel tracks and cattle trails. In addition, river crossings, passes clinging to the edges of mountains partly blocked by rock falls, the thin air of extremely high altitudes and the dense and erratic traffic of Chinese and Indian roads all added to the test of man and machine.

The Silk Trail 2013 expedition was the final validation test for the Range Rover Hybrid before it is signed-off for production. From the home of the Legend in Solihull, UK, it blazed a trail through France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China (including Tibet), Nepal and India. For much of this distance the expedition followed the legendary Silk Road trading routes that first connected Asia with Europe more than 2,500 years ago. Overnight halts were made in hotels, hostels and tents at many of the same staging posts visited all those years ago by Silk Road merchants, missionaries and mercenaries.

Where the north and south Silk Roads split, near the remote city of Kashgar in north-western China, the expedition pioneered a mountainous route never previously completed by a vehicle from outside the country and never previously seen in its entirety by any westerner – the Xinjiang-Tibet highway, which put the new Range Rover Hybrid through its paces at heights of over 5,300 metres above sea level.

Seven consecutive days were spent at altitudes between 11,000 and 17,648 feet (3,350 and 5,379 metres). At such great heights, oxygen content in the air is reduced from the 21 percent found at sea-level to as little as 10 percent, making movement more difficult for humans and internal combustion engines. The Range Rover convoy continued to make good progress, benefitting from the electric motor’s instant torque at 0 rpm and despite being laden with heavy loads including luggage, camping gear, food, medical equipment, and aerodynamically-unfriendly roof-racks carrying spare wheels, tyres and jerry cans of fuel.

Negotiating tracks so sticky with mud that they were impassable to other types of vehicle, the Range Rover’s hybrid engine combination – with a 35kW electric motor supporting the TDV6 3.0 litre turbo-diesel engine – returned excellent fuel consumption for a vehicle so spacious and powerful. Throughout the epic journey the Range Rover Hybrids typically returned 36 to 37 mpg.

Land Rover development engineers closely monitored data loggers fitted to each car, sending back more than 300 gigabytes of detailed technical records to their engineering team at Gaydon in the UK. The purpose of the expedition was not to test the reliability of mechanical components, which are already proven, but to fine-tune the calibration of engine and transmission software to ensure perfectly seamless performance in all terrains and extreme temperatures and altitudes. Technical setbacks reflected the roughness of the road surfaces:  15 punctures among the expedition’s three Range Rover Hybrids and four support vehicles, four wheels damaged by deep potholes, and four windscreens cracked by stones thrown-up on loose surfaces.

Peter Richings, Jaguar Land Rover Hybrids and Electrification Director who took part in the final leg from Jaipur to Mumbai commented: “The world’s first diesel hybrid expedition along the Silk Trail pioneered an ambitious route across Europe and Asia that would have been impassable to most other types of vehicle – but no matter how hostile the conditions, the Range Rover Hybrid prototypes took it all in their stride.

“In developing the hybrid-powered Range Rover, our objective was to gain hybrid’s fuel economy and carbon emissions advantages without compromising the Range Rover’s go-anywhere capabilities, its cabin space or its refinement. The success of this remarkable expedition clearly demonstrates we have achieved that.”

To download images, video and past press releases on Land Rover’s extraordinary Silk Trail expedition from Solihull to Mumbai, please visit www.media.landrover.com.

 

 

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