Rally: An adventure that will push both man and machine to the limits is all set to begin towards the end of this month. The fifth edition of the Himalayan Drive, a cross-country car rally will arrive here on February 26.

The tri-nation rally that starts from February 25 will cover three countries: Bhutan, India and Nepal. Started in 2013, the rally is India’s only international TSD (Time-Speed-Distance) cross-country rally.

This will be the second time the JK Tyre Himalayan Drive 5 will be entering Bhutanese territory. The ceremonial flag off of the rally is scheduled from Siliguri’s City Centre at 4pm on February 25.

The first leg of the rally will cover the eastern Himalayan regions of West Bengal, Darjeeling and the Dooars (Jalpaiguri) ending in the Paro valley.

The second leg will start from Paro and end at Dochula, which is located at an altitude of 3,100 metres above sea level.

The third leg will commence from Paro and riders will travel back to India by driving through the forest and tea garden areas and will conclude in Darjeeling.

Navigating through the offbeat routes that cut through the rugged mountainous tracks, jungles, wildlife sanctuaries and tea estates, the fourth leg of the rally will start from Darjeeling crossing over to Nepal at Pashupatinagar. Then the rally will travel through the plains of the Terai region and the fresh hill sections and will conclude at the hill town of Hile.

The fifth and final leg will take the competitors back to Siliguri from Hile through challenging boulder tracks and river crossings. Over the five legs, the event is expected to cover more than 1,250km, the highest distance ever covered in the Himalayan Drive.

In order to encourage newcomers who share the interest for car rallies, the organisers this year has introduced two single-day events in the rally schedule. The first single-day event will begin from Silliguri to Murti on February 26, which will run concurrently with leg I of the main event.

For rally enthusiasts in Bhutan, coinciding with the Losar on Feburary 27 a-one-day event will be flagged off from Hotel Olathang in Paro at 9am and will conclude at Dochula Pass at around 2pm the same day. The event will run concurrently with Leg II of the main event.

Interested participants can join the rally for free. They will need to produce a copy of an updated blue book, driving licence and passport size photo. Along with the driver, participants should also have a navigator.

The one-day event in Bhutan is supported by the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

For those Bhutanese wishing to take part in the main event, the organisers can allow up to two participants with free entry. However, participants are expected to obtain clearance from Nepal for the leg that enters Nepal. The registration fee for the main event is Nu 35,000.

So far only two Bhutanese riders including Sonam Tshering, the rally coordinator in Bhutan have registered for the one-day rally. The last date of registration for the rally from Paro to Dochula is February 24.

The JK Tyre Himalayan Drive 5 is organised by Just Sportz Management Pvt Ltd supported by Biswa Bangla in collaboration with West Bengal Tourism.

Younten Tshedup