Ryan Rice stays in tune with his love of cars at New England Forest Rally

Ryan Rice lifts the hood before working on the engine of a rally car owned by a customer and friend who will be competing in the upcoming New England Forest Rally. Russ Dillingham / Journal of the Sun

Ryan Rice’s association with cars has come a long way since he was a small child whose parents had to get him out of his beloved comfortable coupe.

Ironically, it was his growing daughter who drew him out of a real race car a few years ago. But Rice is never far from a fast car.

He won’t be competing in the upcoming New England Forest Rally, which runs through the Bethel and Rumford areas this weekend, but he will be invaluable to a handful of drivers who will take part in the race, bringing his car expertise to the table. and manufacturing. they go faster. It’s the same thing Rice does every day at his Lisbon performance store, Portland Performance, where Rice said he does “anything from oil changes to complete rally, track builds. or drag racing “.

The cancellation of last year’s New England Forest Rally gave Rice, a 34-year-old man who grew up in Topsham, a chance to focus on his business by moving to his new location, but he is delighted that the race resumes for this year.

“Rallying is a big event on my calendar every year that I always look forward to – competing or just helping friends drive their cars,” said Rice. “I’m used to seeing my rally family at least a few times a year, and the last year has been tough for all of us. It will be great to get together, have fun and put on a show. “

Rice said he will support multiple teams in their service areas between stages.

“I will monitor the cars when they come back from the stages, help repair the damage and assess how the car is performing and if any tuning changes are needed,” he said.

The interior of a rally car being worked on at Portland Performance in Lisbon on Monday afternoon for the upcoming New England Forest Rally. Russ Dillingham / Journal of the Sun

Rice has become a staple for car owners looking to get the most out of their cars, which often go above and beyond the typical everyday driver.

After Rice grew out of his comfortable coupe, he turned to snowmobiling and ATVs.

“Any activity involving gasoline, engines and loose surfaces is my Zen time,” he said.

This is what made rallying a natural fit for him.

He first competed in the New England Forest Rally in 2010 and was instantly hooked.

“I was impressed with the speed of the cars on loose gravel operating roads and the ability of the rally drivers and co-drivers to maintain that pace,” said Rice. “It almost didn’t seem real that they could stay on the road. And it was definitely a lot more intense than it looks just looking online. I wanted to know more, so I started to get more involved by helping the teams of friends prepare and compete each year at the NEFR.

He volunteered as a stage commissioner in 2011 – “making sure people keep the stage clear while the cars rolled by,” he said – before moving on to work with the crews. service the following year. He has worked with Last Ditch Racing from Bangor, Rez Racing from Old Town, Puschock-Cripps Rally Team from Portland and Lost in Maine Racing from Alfred. Rice also fondly remembers helping pilot Fabio Costa rebuild a blown engine on the night of 2015.

“We went home and collected parts and gaskets from my rally car that I was building, a motor hoist and a bunch of tools. We got back on time to help put the engine back in the car and get it running with less than 10 minutes to spare, ”said Rice.

Rice got the idea to build his own rally car in 2013. It was then that he competed in the Vermont Winter Challenge Rally in his 2005 Subaru STI with daily driver.

“This was my first TSD (time-speed-distance competition), and the heavy snow covering the road overnight made the car between the ditches and navigating the right turns a huge challenge,” said Rice. . “Maintaining that kind of speed on that smooth surface in a streetcar was a surreal experience – an experience I wanted to repeat. I knew that night that I had to build my own rally car.

It wasn’t until 2016 that Rice finally entered the New England Forest Rally in a rally racing car. He went on to win podiums in regional competition at the New England Forest Rally, New Jersey Rallysprint and New Hampshire-based NER SCCA Team O’Neil Rallysprints.

He put his piloting career on hold in 2019 to spend more time with his daughter, who was then 4 years old.

Ethan Rice chains up a rally car on the elevator at Portland Performance in Lisbon on Monday afternoon where he and his brother, Ryan Rice, were working on getting it ready for a longtime friend and client who will be competing in the upcoming Nova Forest rally. -England. Russ Dillingham / Journal of the Sun

“She was growing so fast and I didn’t want to miss a minute,” Rice said.

Still, he said, “nothing beats the big jump from Concord Pond at 90 mph, with the car 5 or 6 feet in the air.”

But for now, he’s going to continue helping others get their cars ready for the New England Forest Rally, then head to the mountains of the west to watch them turn the corners at incredible speeds and take the road. air over the rapidly approaching bumps. This rush to see this in person – and to know what it feels like – is hard to pull away from him.

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