There’s a definite lack of attention that characterizes my generation and the one that follows it. As the organizers of HyperFEST Presented by Grassroots Motorsports have learned, to distract car-obsessed youngsters from their phones and draw them into the sometimes impenetrable sport of road racing, it takes a little extra. This is why, since its inception, HyperFEST has approached this challenge by offering a wide array of automotive-themed entertainment surrounding a core of road racing in a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
There are a couple of reasons for going to such lengths to introduce people to road racing. The sad reality is that people, regardless of age, without on-track experience have a hard time penetrating the sport — even as spectators. Road racing is a complex, technical sport that, for better or worse, has a singular sort of appeal to those who’ve already experienced it for themselves.
The second is that the barriers to entry are often perceived to be higher than they are. Gearheads young and old are intimidated by the costs — assuming they are aware of the possibility of entry at all. That means that for many, sadly, the thought of actually driving themselves doesn’t come to fruition.
Spirit and Aim
At least part of the aim of HyperFEST Presented by Grassroots Motorsports is to correct the misinformation out there about tracking, get young drivers to track their own vehicles, and offer an environment where gearheads of all stripes can bond over their shared passions of speed and automobiles.
HyperFEST began in 2002 as a way to draw the tuner crowd into the sport of road racing. In fact, the idea was to “take NOPi and put it on a road course,” remarked Chris Cobetto, founder of the event. Those born within the last two decades mightn’t remember NOPi and the grip it had on the Southern California import scene, but its integration of car show and casual competition was groundbreaking, and it had also intrigued Chris and his compatriots in the Mid-Atlantic. They felt that if they could make actual automotive competition the main attraction, they might have a way to get the eager wrencher or Gran Turismo fanatic into an actual car on an actual track.
Well, with the right people around you, such a hurdle isn’t too hard to cover. Once at the event, attendees were tempted to try their hand at driving on track with a coach’s guidance. Their HyperDrives charged an enthusiastic first-timer a scant $40 for tech, a briefing in the classroom, and a 20-minute session with a NASA instructor sitting beside them. The reasonable cost of entry and the all-inclusive nature of the HyperDrive meant that HyperFEST was soon introducing 100 to 120 new drivers to the sport at every event.
Soon, they were discovering that their attendees were learning more about different disciplines of racing. If the different events were laid out in a comprehensible fashion, the machinery was attractive, and the atmosphere was generally festive, a drifter might poke around the off-road section and talk his way into a 4X4’s seat.
“At the end of the day, all gearheads love cars,” Cobetto said. “If you put different forms of motorsport in close proximity to one another and bring the spectators together with a sense of camaraderie, you can achieve real crossover.”
This intermingling has been a large part of the event’s success. Over the last 15 years, HyperFEST has brought together the concert, the race and the car show in a way that’s similar to Norway’s Gatebil, although this is more family-oriented. There’s a lightheartedness and revelry that isn’t always found at more sober and serious race events, and yet the technically minded can find many places to obsess over gadgetry, whether it be at a booth or at an accessible vehicle in a competition setting.
A Varied Offering
HyperFEST has a lot to choose from. Drifting, karting, off-roading, rally, and even lawnmower racing. Several live music booths, DJs, and musical vendors like Paul Reed Smith guitars add to the ambiance.
Drifting is a huge draw at HyperFEST Presented by Grassroots Motorsports. Cars use the Patriot Course in the infield for drifting while others use the full course for HPDE, HyperDrives and racing.
There’s also the Hagerty Car Show, in which the following awards are handed out: Best in Show, Best Race Car, Best Import, Best Domestic, Best European, Best Exotic, and Best 4×4. In addition to these, there is a two-step competition, a bass-off competition, and raffles every half hour.
Drifting also has garnered a huge following, and HyperFEST has given 60 drifters a chance to demonstrate their abilities. The 60 runners are divided into two run groups determined by skill level and level of car preparation. Those who simply want to experience sideways action can sit shotgun in a professional drift car — or even get the tandem experience as a member of a four-car train.
“Drift Games” blends humor and car control in a setting that has mass appeal. One particular version of the event sees drivers trying to hit a giant soccer ball into a massive net with the sliding rear of their car. Just another way by which HyperFEST brings a lightheartedness to a high-intensity weekend.
In addition to drifting on the Patriot Course, HyperFEST Presented by Grassroots Motorsports, there are also drifting games like the, “How Close Can You Park It Challenge.” It’s as much a form of entertainment as it is a clinic in car control.
Those who like to slide on a loose surface can enter the Chaos Trail Drives. Bring your stock or modified 4×4 and drive a variety of trails, terrains, and jumps throughout Virginia International Raceway’s 1,300-acre facility.
It’s not all serious competition, though. Embrace the silly side of motorsport with the Koni Power Wheels Attack by Red Line Oil: an event in which a group of racers take motorless Power Wheels cars and roll them downhill in a gravity race through VIR’s rollercoaster section. Cobetto calls this event a “redneck soap box derby.”
The aforementioned events paint a pretty good picture of what HyperFEST Presented by Grassroots Motorsports offers, but the full list needs to be considered:
- Paul Reed Smith Air Guitar and Shred Contests
- Tire Rack Ultimate Track Car Challenge
- Time Attack / Time Trials
- Koni Power Wheels Attack by Red Line Oil
- Hagerty Car Show presented by SpeedTrendSociety
- NASA Road Racing
- Off-Road Experience presented by Chaos Fab Shop
- X-Force Exhaust Burnout Contest & Sound Off
- Hawk Performance HyperDrives
- Motul Rally Experience featuring Exedy Rally Rides, RallySprint, and RallyCross
- Kaizen Autosport Racecar Ridealongs
- Club HyperFEST
- Helicopter Rides
- HPDE: High Performance Driving Event
- Off-Road Rides
- Vendor Midway
- Kid Zone
- Spectator Games
The Off-Road Experience presented by Chaos Fab Shop is a big attraction at HyperFEST Presented by Grassroots Motorsports.
Like so many automotive events of 20 years ago, the first phases of marketing revolved around print. It started with flyers, then moved to full pages in Super Street and Sport Compact magazines. Those magazines, based in Southern California, brought crowds from across the country to this burgeoning event. As of now, most media is online, which has proven quite effective in attracting vendors.
Though HyperFEST began at Summit Point, where it ran until 2014, its home for the last seven years has been Virginia International Raceway.
Currently, the typical HyperFest fills the lot at VIR with over 40 vendors—and the field is growing. Currently, the 60-odd staff and 20 HyperDrive instructors serve the growing audience, most of whom stay overnight in VIR’s 700 camping slots. For many attendees, this is a full weekend event they’ve arrived at after driving a very long distance, and they intend to make the most of their stay.
“At this point, we can say that the event is polished, but we’re continuing to add a higher shine.” Cobetto said proudly. “We’re looking for more companies to showcase their products, and, hopefully, sponsor some of our events.”
With the results thus far and the unique mixture of disciplines in one location, Cobetto believes that finding more support shouldn’t be much of a challenge. “We believe that the crossover element should appeal to a greater number of companies out there,” he said. “Currently, there’s nothing else like HyperFEST and its ‘one-stop-shopping’ aspect.”
Though COVID canceled HyperFEST plans in 2020, it returned with a bang in 2021. “We tried to beat the possibility of a COVID hangover by delaying the event until October instead of the usual month of May. Clearly, people weren’t fazed. We had just as many HyperDrives with coaches sitting shotgun as before.”
Clearly, when you’ve got an event of this caliber, many people are willing to make the trek — and take the risk.
The 2022 HyperFEST Presented by Grassroots Motorsports returns to its original time slot, and will take place May 13-15