The idea of 47 teams participating in a motor rally that runs nearly 1250 km across 3 nations which include Bhutan, was an idea exciting enough to say a yes to the organisers when asked me to cover the Biswa Bangla – J K Tyre – Himalayan Drive 5!
What’s Biswa Bangla – J K Tyre Himalayan Drive 5?
That’s India’s only international TSD (Time-Speed-Distance) rally. Into its 5th edition, this would cover 1250 km in 5 days, traversing through Dooars, Darjeeling Hills in Bengal, Paro, Dochule Pass and Thimphu in Bhutan, Hile in Nepal.
Held in association with Experience Bengal, this motor rally aims at promoting motorsports in the region, connect people and associate cultures; bridge the gap. This differs from other TSD rallies as it covers varied landscapes – hills, forests, plains, river beds; with a few very steep slopes up and it’s thoroughly thrilling.
But what’s a TSD rally?
TSD rallies are not races as I thought them to be. There are definite locations set and given to the participants. A specified time and specified average speed are also allotted to drive from Point A to Point B. If a team is late by 1 second, from the expected time, 1 mark is penalised. However, if the team reaches there before the expected time, 3 marks are penalised for every second.
A team consists of a navigator and a driver. The navigator keeps a check on the time taken and the road travelled. Based on his navigation would the driver drive. If you are reading this, you would already have started doing calculations!
I’ve seen the teams sit with a pen, paper and a calculator to do the maths! BTW, the prize money is a 6 digit sum.
What’s the route?
We have the ceremonial flag off at Siliguri. During the early hours of the next day, they’ll travel to Paro in Bhutan. From Paro the rally would go to Thimphu and would get back to Paro. Day 3 would see the longest drive of near 350 km from Paro in Bhutan to Darjeeling in Bengal. During Day 4, we drive to Hile in Nepal and the 5th day, we come back to Siliguri.
What are the highlights?
Bhutanese New Year “Losar” is on the 27th, while we will be in Bhutan; I could possibly photograph the people. Then there’s the Tiger’s Nest “Paro Taktsang”, where I am so eager to trek to. I’m told it’s a 5-hour trek.
There are a group of women drivers who have participated on being invitated. They’d drive for two days.
The ceremonial Flag-off!
The ceremonial flag off was done by C. S. Lepcha, Commissioner of Siliguri Metropolitan Police, in presence of all the stakeholders of this event at Siliguri City Center.
Every participant seemed excited and happy. That’s obvious, duh. I managed to sneak into Car #1’s back seat trying to strike a conversation and woah! I saw the amount of preparations they had. From water bottles to pillows to gloves and extra jackets (Paro was as cold as -2 degrees, the day before yesterday) and sheets of calculations and the calculator which they had forgotten to switch off.
There are 47 teams, 18 of them qualified for the national category. Car #1 was of Ajgar Ali and Mustafa who are the national champions. I’m amazed to see that these sports attract people from not only all across the country but also delegations from Nepal. 18 teams are contesting in the Open category while 11 teams are participating on being invited.
At a personal level, it’s a privilege to be working again with Jaideep Mazumder. He was in The Times of India Kolkata and he had covered Kolkata Bloggers and has a good contribution in my growth. Now he works with Swarajya Magazine. Joydip Sur who is with us is a pro in this! He writes about motorsports on AutoJunction portal.