Anthony Burden barrels through the course at the New England Forest Rally. David Cosseboom photo

Anthony Burden will do anything humanly possible to complete a rally race, including desperately driving his car on three wheels to cross the finish line.

Professional co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino, who will serve as Travis Pastrana’s navigator, has been in wrecks where she suffered broken legs and burns in races that are not for the faint of heart.

Both drivers return to compete in this year’s two-day ARA New England Forest Rally, which begins Friday. The 15-stage, 111-mile event features drivers racing street-legal cars of all makes and models across rock-strewn, logging roads around Maine and New Hampshire. The race is headquartered at Sunday River in Newry.

Burden, a New Hampshire native who moved to Norway to become supply director for Bedard Pharmacy and Medical Supplies in Auburn, pushed his battered car to the limit in last year’s New England Forest Rally.

“The suspension completely collapsed (in the back corner) and there was only a wheel left,” the 33-year-old recalled. “That’s how we finished the event. So there were many others who were not as fortunate. Rally is do anything you can to get to the finish line.

“Last year, we finished first in two-wheel drive. We were the fastest two-wheel regional competitor and then we finished fifth overall out of all the regional teams. We are planning on (stepping up to the) podium for two-wheel drive (this race). It would be nice to maintain our fifth overall for regional again this year. We have a little bit of a streak going.” 


Gelsomino, a 41-year-old native of Australia who comes from a family of rally competitors, will be participating in her ninth New England Forest Rally. She has crewed with six different drivers during the previous eight races. She now resides in Idaho with her husband, Alex Gelsomino.

Co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino stands with driver Travis Pastrana in front of their car. The pair will be racing in the ARA New England Forest Rally, beginning on Friday. Submitted photo

“I have been doing this full-time since 2010,” Rhianon Gelsomino said. “There was lots of opportunities in America and I fell in love with Alex (also a co-driver), who lived in America, so I have been here since then. I have my husband and my brother on the opposition team this weekend.  That’s not so easy.”

Alex Gelsomino is the co-driver for one of Pastrana’s rivals, Ken Block.

Rhianon Gelsomino comes from a family of racers and naturally she got hooked on rallying.

“My dad is a rally driver and my brothers are all rally drivers,” she said. “I started in Australia with my brothers. I was a (physical education) teacher, and by 2010 I got good enough that I decided that I would quit teaching and take up crew driving full-time.  

“I probably have driven for 30 different drivers in 16 different countries over the world, but I have been full-time for Travis in 2021 and 2022. But I am virtually a contractor in a normal job — if you know what I mean. Alex is a full-time co-driver like me. He does exactly what I do. So he is my main opposition.”


Burden does not consider himself an adrenaline junky, but he does feel the need for speed while taking on the challenges of racing at speeds of 80 to 100 miles per hour over rocky trails.

“Out of all the forms of racing I’ve done, rally is the most exciting because once you are in the car and you are racing, it is a constant draw of adrenaline every stage,” he said. “When you are doing road racing, yeah, you are going wheel-to-wheel and door-to-door, but even that doesn’t touch the level of adrenaline you get when you are flying around the corners and jumping through the air and the constant challenge of it. It is the most adrenaline sport I have done. It is rather addicting.”

Gelsomino is enjoying co-driving full-time with Pastrana, who is the 2021 ARA champion. The pair are currently on top in the national championship with 78 points.

“(Pastrana) has done a mix of things,” she said. “He is not racing NASCAR at the moment. Travis honestly can get in anything and drive it. But what people don’t realize, he has been rallying since he was 18 as well. He is one of those all-arounders, you could say. He has got such a busy schedule.”

This is the fourth time Burden will be competing in the New England Forest Rally, and for him, this race never gets old. He has been racing since 2012. He has also competed in hill climbing races, where he barrels up paved roads on New England’s mountains. Burden’s co-driver this year is Bryce Proseus.

“(The New England Forest Rally) is a really fun event. It is fast, but it is also brutal,” he said. “The logging roads in Maine and New Hampshire, they can be quite rough so there is a lot of rocks, but it is a very high-speed event with lots of really fun jumps. Probably the best stage of the rally is the first stage of the event, which is Concord Pond. 


“It is such a fast, flowing stage with lots of technical jumps on it. From a driver’s perspective, it is a blast. And then from there, we go out into the logging roads where it is fast and flowing, but there is lots of rocks and a simple mistake can cost you the event. There is a huge high attrition from mechanical failures.”

Like Burden, Gelsomino recalled a fond moment involving her and her brother, Brendan Reeves, in the 2015 race. She said she was racing with Nick Roberts and the pair crashed on a turn-around in one of the stages.

“Our car was upside down on the side of the road,” she said. “My brother from Australia was actually over here racing. I usually race with him. I think I have done over 80 rallies with my brother all over the world. He happened to be the next car on the road. So I crashed and one minute later my brother happened to come around the corner and sees his sister. It was quite funny.”

Gelsomino, who runs a training school for co-drivers, always stresses preparation to her students.

“Once you get out in those forests, your phone doesn’t work,” she said. “You need to have all this work with you so when you are following the stage, you know where you are going.

“In my job, I have to do a lot of preparation work. When we do reconnaissance of the stages before we can race on them, we need to go and we need to drive every stage and write pace notes. Travis has to tell me what he wants written for every piece of the road.”


Burden is looking forward to taking his car out for a spin. The car will feature the shell of a Volkswagen Jetta with a different engine, transmission and suspension — all street-legal.

“I am the one who built it. I work on it in between events,” he said. “The crew helps put it all back together in between the stages.” 

Unlike Pastrana, who is trying to capture the overall win in the event, Burden is just trying to be the best of the regional bunch.

“So we compete in the regional portion of the rally,” he said. “Right now, there around 60 teams entered into the event. Twenty-five of them are entered as national competitors, competing in the national series. The remaining 43 are all part of the regional championship.”

Burden said the rally racing community is something to experience, where drivers catch up with each other and family and friends help out with the event.

“My four-year-old son (Ryker) will be at the event,” Burden said. “My parents (Dave and Diane) will be there. My dad will be crewing. So it is fun.”

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