Originally conceived to accomplish the goal of growing the sport of road racing and introducing more people to NASA, HyperFest has grown beyond its original scope and become something all its own.

The first HyperFest took place in 2002 at Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia, and it was the birthplace of the HyperDrive, which is a taste of what NASA’s HPDE program is like. Participants get one classroom session and one session on track. Even now that the festival has moved to Virginia International Raceway, HyperDrives are still offered at HyperFest and they sell out year after year.

For 2023, HyperFest was the largest event in its history. NASA Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Chris Cobetto said they welcomed 30 percent more campers for the weekend and more than 18,000 spectators over the course of the weekend. The event also had the most vendors displaying in the infield and the greatest number of sponsoring partners.

“It’s been the best one we’ve done so far in terms of attendance,” Cobetto said.

Lines to get in the facility were so long on Thursday that Cobetto had to send out HyperFest ambassadors with coolers full of cold beverages while spectators and NASA drivers who wanted good paddock spots waited to get in. Cobetto revised the entry procedures to get the line moving faster, and it flowed freely the rest of the weekend.

Cobetto noted that in earlier years, he felt a bit self-conscious about how the crowds looked to participating sponsors. VIR is so enormous that you can put 10,000 spectators in the infield and it doesn’t look busy. This year was different. Vendor villages, sponsor displays and the Speed Trend Society car show were full to the point that next year they’re going to need to find more room — somehow.

New for 2023, Maxxis Tires stepped in to sponsor the HyperDrives. Maxxis gave HyperDrive instructors a set of tires and with the potential to be a Maxxis ambassador in the future. For the last few years, Hawk Performance also has been providing brake pads to instructors and discounts for the HyperDrive participants.

“So, they got a free set of tires for coming out to instruct in HyperDrives, and if they choose to continue to operate as an ambassador, they can maintain a really good relationship with Maxxis,” Cobetto said.

HyperFest also was the birthplace of the US Drift Series and it remains a fan favorite year after year, with competition all day Friday and Saturday on the Patriot Course and even one session on the full 3.27-mile VIR track. On Sunday, there was more drift action on the skid pad, and the Patriot Course was reserved for the Maxxis HyperDrives and TrackCross, another new idea that is kind of like autocross, but on a track.


Saturday’s skid pad included Secret Service Drives, which were ride-along opportunities with Racing for Heroes to witness evasive driving maneuvers on the skid pads. Passengers would get in a Ford Crown Victoria, which reversed out of the boarding area, then do a J turn — aka a “Rockford” — and then chase another Crown Vic in an attempt to PIT maneuver it.

HyperFest isn’t just about road racing and drifting. VIR has more than 1,200 acres and Cobetto does his best use all of them. NASA Rally Sport provides rides in the dirt in rally cars and Chaos Fabrication leads an enthusiastic group of participants, and partners like WARN Industries, BFGoodrich, Maxxis into HyperFest DirtWorld where off road enthusiasts can drive their own or take rides on one of the trails or obstacle courses.

“We know car people love more than just one type of car or motorsport. A NASA road racer may have a Jeep or a Bronco in the garage beside a BMW or Honda, and a drifter might also have a side-by-side to play with. Those who like fun in cars don’t always stick to just one discipline and we try to provide a multilevel playground,” said Cobetto.

The biggest new idea born at HyperFest this year was the inaugural HyperFest GT race on Saturday. Spearheaded by Chris Cobetto’s son Jack Cobetto, who essentially grew up at racetracks, HFGT uses NASA’s Super Touring 4 rules structure because it applies to the broadest cross section of amateur racing cars. ST3 cars can detune or add weight. ST5 cars can reduce weight or add power to participate. You get the idea.

The most interesting innovation is that drivers who signed up to race in their regular NASA class for the weekend got the HFGT race for free. So there was a qualifying session on Friday and the inaugural 25-minute race on Saturday. Fifty cars took the green flag for the very first HyperFest GT race.

“We give it its own run group because the idea behind it is to have a single class racing series. I like multiple-class racing. There’s nothing wrong with it, but part of the idea of growing road racing is to make it a little easier for people to understand,” Cobetto said. “Whoever crosses the line first is the winner of all the cars that are out there. Formula One does it. Everybody else does it. So, that’s pretty much why we thought it would be a good idea to do the same thing.”

Factory Corvette driver and two-time LeMans winner Tommy Milner entered the race in a borrowed car and finished fourth. Pro Formula D driver Chelsea Denofa qualified 20th, but due to confusion during gridding, he started farther back. In true hard charger fashion, Denofa gained 15 spots by the end of the race, a testament to his skill and the Michael Moore car preparation. The entire HyperFest event, including the HFGT race, was live streamed and is still viewable on the HyperFest YouTube channel.

When the checkered flag flew, it was NASA Southeast’s Jon Kozlow and Adam Brickley in first and second, respectively, and NASA NorCal’s Scott Smith in third in an all-BMW podium. NASA Mid-Atlantic’s Carson Stone originally finished second in his third-generation Mazda RX-7, but made too much power on the dyno after the race, so he was DQ’d. Call the inaugural event a proof of concept, something Cobetto hopes he can replicate at NASA events nationwide.

“The concept worked, and 50 drivers took advantage of the HFGT fun. ST4 is a nice middle ground. People can kind of punch up or punch down,” Cobetto said. “I would love to have enough sponsorship support to provide free racing to those qualifying for larger HFGT races, but HFGT can be run at any NASA regional event as well should the region want to add it.”

Cobetto also is aiming to replicate HyperFest at a second date and another track on the East Coast in 2024. All the particulars are not in place yet, but more details will be revealed in the near future.

Two races that add color and value to the event are the Bimmerworld Battle Royale, now in its third year, and the Ginetta Challenge, which is put on by Kaizen Autosport, a Ginetta importer headquartered at VIR. The Bimmerworld  Battle Royale is just for kicks, and it includes Spec E30, Spec E46 and Spec3 cars, all on track at the same time, but still racing by class.

“So, it’s just more track time for the Spec E46, Spec E30 and Spec3 guys. And it’s a fun thing. It’s not necessarily a points thing,” Cobetto said. “We don’t want somebody to screw their car up trying to get points on Friday, when the big races are on Saturday and Sunday.”

The Ginetta Challenge is a bit more serious, and it features the Ginetta G56 GTA, a 2,400-pound GT4 car with a 300-horspower 3.7-liter V6. They’re all NASA drivers, and putting them in their own run group promotes greater parity than putting them in NASA’s Super Touring 3, where the cars are a little outgunned.

“So many people want to come to HyperFest, and we try to provide as much fun as I possibly can fit in one box for them,” Cobetto added.

Kaizen Autosport also offers racecar rides all weekend long, and Tommy Milner was one of the drivers. Most people getting rides didn’t even realize they were riding with a factory Corvette driver and a two-time LeMans winner.

“Tommy’s a great guy. He texted me about two and a half weeks before the event and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got some time off. I love HyperFest and want to come. Do you have anything for me to do?’” Cobetto said. “And I quickly said, ‘Um, I’m sure I could find something for you to do.’ So I did, and he gave rides.”

Interestingly enough, Milner also drove in the Koni Power Wheels Attack by Tire Streets, one of the most watched events at HyperFest, and the unofficial kickoff to Saturday night’s activities. With additional sponsorship from Tire Streets, the Power Wheels Attack got some new obstacles this year, and Milner made it to the final heat, but crashed out in a melee near the bottom of the hill. As a result, Cobetto is considering putting the starting line farther downhill because the speeds seem to have increased over time.

“We do have tech. I can’t say that it’s super serious tech, but primarily what we’re looking for is that people have the right helmet on and the safety stuff, just like any other tech, right? We are not necessarily as concerned with performance,” Cobetto said. “I will say that some of them look a little wider than stock. Somehow, some of them look a little lower than stock. Some seem to roll maybe a little easier somehow.”

When the sun begins to set, fans head to the Motul Burnout Contest, which has raised the primal burnout to an art form. When the smoke settles, the Main Stage becomes the evening focus, with live bands and DJs at Club HyperFest, which keeps the party going till midnight.

Monster Energy set up VIP wings, with tents and coolers and tables on either side of the Main Stage where sponsors and partners can relax at the end of the day and soak in the atmosphere of Club HyperFest.

In the coming years, there’s no telling what kind of innovations will emerge from HyperFest, but if a new initiative can get more people interested in the sport of road racing, whether it’s rolling downhill on a motorless Power Wheels car or taking that first HyperDrive, we might have a few more friends to race with.

“HyperFest introduces more and more people to NASA every year, helping to grow NASA, but even more importantly, the sport,” Cobetto said. “Plus it is just plain fun on wheels, and I like throwing a big party for thousands of really good, fun car people.”


Images courtesy of Kyle Cross, Preston Newby, Makeshift Garage, Lingenfelter Performance, Bojengaa HyperMedia, @BRANDONDELANO, BTM Graphix, Brett Becker, LINQ Project, Valters Boze, Diego Suniaga and Brutus Thorn

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