Vermont rally team’s message of inclusion seeks a more open, if bumpy, road

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    Becky Best, left, looks in on her husband Ed as he settles in for his twice-weekly Twitch stream of the video game Dirt Rally 2.0 at home in East Bethel, Vt., on Tuesday, July 6, 2022. Streaming is a way for the Bests to build their fan base and bring in a small amount of income to support their racing hobby. "As a millenial, unfortunately everything has to be a side hustle," said Ed. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Ed Best rolls a worn tire from his everyday car to his truck in East Bethel, Vt., on Thursday, July 8, 2022. He's having four new tires mounted so he can drive reconaissance runs of the New England Forest Rally route before the race on Friday and Saturday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Ken Best, the team mechanic, middle, packs his truck for the trip to the New England Forest Rally with his son, driver Ed Best, left, and daughter-in-law Becky Best, right, in East Bethel, Vt., on Wednesday, July 13, 2022. Best will drive 500 miles over two days with 114 of those miles on racing stages. The family's dog Harley will stay home. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Pace notes from Ed Best's 2021 race at the New England Forest Rally show the terrain, turns, and obstacles on the road. A co-driver reads the notes so the driver can anticipate the road ahead. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

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    Ed Best pulls his rally car, the UniCARn, a 1998 Subary Impreza L, out of his East Bethel, Vt., garage to load it on a trailer for transport to the New England Forest Rally The Best Rally in Maine on Wednesday, July 13, 2022. The race, largely on rough dirt roads on paper company land, can see drivers reaching speeds over 100 miles per hour. "You have to finish before you finish first," said Best. "If somebody says, 'did you finish?' you know they really understand rally." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/16/2022 9:56:33 PM
Modified: 7/16/2022 9:56:08 PM

BETHEL — Though it has a global following at its highest levels, rallying has always been a bit of a niche sport.

In a way, that’s part of its appeal. A driver and a co-driver hustle a small, often wildly overpowered car through the woods on gravel roads, sometimes to glory, sometimes to spectacular catastrophe.

It can be a gripping spectacle, even if the noise and adrenaline aren’t for everyone.

But a small, homegrown rally team from Bethel is pairing its passion for the sport with an inclusive message that the team’s tight-knit membership hopes will make rallying less forbidding, more open and not merely tolerant but welcoming. While Ed Best has been a fan of rally driving since the age of 14, he and his wife, Becky, have together made their rally car into a vehicle for something greater than two people. And maybe it will be good for rallying, too.

“It’s not just there in the car. There’s a whole team culture with us,” Becky, the team’s wrangler and, for lack of a better title, spiritual leader, said during a recent interview at the Best family home in Bethel.

The car, a 1998 Subaru Impreza, for which Ed paid $450 when he was in his 20s, has been dubbed the UniCARn, and is emblazoned with a unicorn on either side, the team’s totem animal. Next to the names of the driver and co-driver, Best and Heather Littlefield, are their personal pronouns, (he/him, she/her, respectively). The car’s grill is painted as a rainbow flag.

Becky, who’s trained as a graphic designer, has stickers printed up and gives them away to people who stop by their car in the paddock.

The team stands for “inclusivity, civic responsibility and living up to the Best family name,” Becky said. Rallying uses a lot of resources for something that might seem frivolous, she added. “I feel like you need to find a way to use that to make the world a better place.”

Spectators regularly come up to the Bests and hug them, they said.

“They see that rainbow and they know,” Becky said.

Stage rallying, so called because there are timed stages meant to be driven flat out, might well be, as Ed described it, “the most inclusive form of motorsport,” but speed is the lure. A typical stage rally, which includes timed stages on closed roads and transit sections on open roads in between, might cover 500 miles, with maybe 100 to 150 miles of special stages on which the fastest car wins.

This weekend, Best Rally Team is at the New England Forest Rally, the only national stage rally held in New England. It’s run mainly on private roads through paper company land in the Maine woods, and is based at the Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry, Maine.

In addition to Ed and Becky, and Littlefield, the Maine-based co-driver, the team consists of Ed’s dad, Ken Best, who worked as a mechanic while Ed was growing up and is now a machinist; Eli Ferro, a student at The Sharon Academy who helps with the mechanical work, and another volunteer from Massachusetts.

Ed, 34, and Becky, 36, both grew up in Bethel and at one point were in day care together. They live in Ed’s childhood home in East Bethel and work on the car in a garage at the house.

The Bests started rallying in 2019, after years of spectating and volunteering at rallies while also working on the Subaru. After repairing the bodywork, installing a rollcage and implementing other required safety features, including a full fire-suppression system, Ed decided he had to push forward, find a co-driver and get into an event.

“You can’t wait until the car is ‘done’ before you go racing, or you’ll never go racing,” he said.

With a co-driver from Missouri, the team entered rallies in Pennsylvania and Maine, and have kept at it since the coronavirus pandemic cut back on the 2020 season.

Among rally cars, the UniCARn is not particularly powerful, but since stage rallies are conducted almost entirely on dirt and gravel, “it’s a momentum game,” Ed Best said. Last year, the car topped out at around 95 miles per hour. With a transmission rebuilt over the winter, the car will be able to get more out of its limited horsepower and should reach 130 mph on the faster stages at the New England Forest Rally.

It’s more important to have good notes for the co-driver to relay to the driver as they speed through the special stages than it is to have a powerful car, Best said. Prior to driving the special stages at speed, Best and Littlefield spend hours going over them in Best’s daily driver, another Subaru, to refine the notes that Littlefield will follow to guide Best.

In rally pace notes, each corner is assigned a number from 1 to 6, with 1 being the sharpest and slowest and 6 the most gradual and fastest.

The aim is the cleanest possible drive. The New England Forest Rally could have an attrition rate of 40 to 50%. The question that marks someone as a knowledgeable rally fan is not, “Did you win?” but “Did you finish?” For a team spending its own money and building its own car, there’s a financial incentive not to wreck, though crashing is expected.

“There are those who have rolled, and there are those who are going to roll,” said Ed Best, who built his car with durability in mind.

Few rally teams operate with substantial outside support. One of the best known in the US is headquartered in Vermont, the Milton-based company Vermont SportsCar, which prepares rally and rallycross cars under the flag of Subaru of America. Vermont also is home to John Buffum, who remains the nation’s most successful rally driver, winner of 11 national titles, mostly in the 1980s.

With so many gravel roads, and with the Team O’Neil Rally School in Dalton, N.H., the Twin States might seem like fertile ground for rallying, but there are relatively few teams and events. Decades ago, there was a rally held in the central Vermont town of Plymouth, but Buffum said he doubts such an event could be revived today.

“We’ve always had a bunch of rallyists in Vermont,” he said in a phone interview. But “there are no rallies here because there are so many people living out in the woods that you could never close the roads.”

The upper Midwest is more fertile ground for rallying, he said, mainly because there’s more paper company land and private roads. There are four national rallies and 10 regional events within 500 miles of one another.

The Bests are more optimistic. For one thing, the economic impact of a rally can be immense. When last year the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, in Pennsylvania, had permitting troubles that limited the event’s scope, the business community raised a hue and cry about millions in lost revenue. And the Bests also noted that other motorized events make use of Vermont roads both public and private, including hillclimb races at Ascutney and Okemo.

“I would like to bring rallying back to Vermont,” Becky Best said.

For the time being, that effort will have to wait. Becky has struggled with a confounding health issue over the past two years, a leak of cerebrospinal fluid that doctors haven’t been able to pinpoint.

“It causes a whole roulette-wheel of symptoms,” she said, including fatigue and headaches.

“I’m at a point,” she added, “where I can’t wait to get better,” but she’s “not sure if it will happen.”

If healthy, Best said she could see making an effort to bring a stage rally to Vermont, but “I don’t want to make a commitment that I could not fulfill to my utmost,” she said.

In the meantime, just fielding a rally car is more than enough to keep them busy. Becky plans out all the food for race weekends, and will greet spectators. She dyes her hair for every rally.

For Ed, the rally also is an escape. Nerves will set in, but as the timer counts down to start a stage he relaxes. “When we get in the race car, everything goes away,” he said.

The UniCARn works its magic for both of them, welcoming a wider audience to the sport they love.

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

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