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Bangladesh a glorious surprise for classic car rally drivers

Bangladesh’s first international classic car rally proved to be a memorable experience for the drivers of eight nationalities who took part. Most of them were discovering the country for the first time and were amazed by its beauty and friendliness, writes Nick Powell.

The East Himalaya rally was rated as an adventure by its organisers, more than three weeks on the road through Bangladesh, Bhutan and north-east India in 16 cars and two motorcycles dating back as far as the 1950s (and in one case to 1934). After a “tricky and technical” journey from Kolkata, before a “quiet and peaceful’ journey through Bhutan, the drivers weren’t sure what to expect when they reached Bangladesh.

They received what they described as “a fantastic welcome”, with a marching band, flowers and coconut juice, as well as the local press and dignitaries. It was the first such car rally in Bangladesh and the Brussels-based organisers were aided by the Bangladesh embassy to secure special permission to bring the vehicles into the country.

“To be honest, Bangladesh was a real surprise. The country, its people, the roads… everything was not at all what people were expecting. It turned out to be an amazing journey through the country. A highlight for many”, said Destination Rally’s Bruno Leunen.

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Most participants discovered Bangladesh for the first time and were amazed by the beauty of the villages and the friendliness of the people lining the sides of the roads to wave at the passing cars. It was a memorable five days before crossing back into India to return to Kolkata.

The Destination Rally team hopes to return to Bangladesh in 2025. It’s a Belgian collective group, managed by Bruno Leunen, who is also the rally director. It seeks exotic and scenic locations for its classic cars, supported by mechanics who aim to get the classic cars back on the road after any breakdown.

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