It’s not uncommon to meet an automotive enthusiast — be it a builder, a race fan, or an amateur historian — who struggles to find a way into the world of racing. For those who lack connections, it almost seems like there’s an impenetrable wall built around motorsport, and even if they know a track day organizer or an avid driver with racing experience who can grant them access, the costs and risks may keep them from trying.

This unfortunate fact is all too familiar to Chris Cobetto, Regional Director of NASA Mid-Atlantic and founder/director of HyperFest. With HyperFest, his wish has been to help those dreamers take the leap, and to help encourage them, he’s provided a soft landing pad. The event has been helping initiates get their first taste of racing in a comfortable yet competitive environment, bringing veteran racers and partners in the automotive industry together with the new and curious.

A contributing factor to HyperFest’s growing attendance — it hit record numbers this year with 19,253 attendees  — is its numerous attractions. “I’ve heard many say that there is just too much to see in one visit, so they have to return the next year. We keep the traditional attractions that everyone loves, but like Disney World or Busch Gardens, we are always thinking of new and fun attractions to keep things fresh. It’s our way of diversifying the appeal of HyperFest,” says Cobetto.

Perhaps nothing has quite the visual excitement of drifting, which is why US Drift had no difficulty getting more than 400 people to take a thrilling ride in a drift car that weekend. The 1.1-mile Patriot Circuit at VIR is regarded as one of the coolest drifting tracks in the country. Driving spots for the US Drift event were limited to 125, which sold out right after registration opened.

With several big names from Formula D offering ride alongs, more than 400 drift fans were able to experience, from the passenger seat, demonstrations in car control that might possibly send them scouring the Facebook Marketplace for a rusted drift missile that night.

HyperFest and its partners know that cars aren’t the only way to have fun on wheels. One of the event’s biggest and longest running partners, Monster Energy, attracted fans of two-wheeled machinery by bringing in their Freestyle Motocross Team. With a series of ramps built alongside the drift course on the XS Power Batteries Skid Pad, the pro riders were able to demonstrate their acrobatic abilities while the drifters below demonstrated their disdain for rear tires. The spectacle of dirt bikes launching off ramps with drift cars sliding underneath is something that truly earns HyperFest the “three-ringed circus” label Cobetto has given it.


One of the big names in drifting and Monster Energy athlete Vaughn Gittin Jr. was present providing demonstrations, signing autographs and giving ride-alongs in his 1,300-horsepower RTR Mustang, a Formula D car built on a pro racing budget. It was clear Ford Performance wanted folks to appreciate the potential of the Mustang as both a drift machine and a corner carver.

“As a kid, I was always bored going to museums or attractions where you couldn’t touch or do something. HyperFest is an experience for like-minded fans to be able to touch and engage with the cars,” said Cobetto.

Alongside NASA Mid Atlantic’s traditional HPDE program, 2024 Ford Mustang owners received a unique opportunity, courtesy of Ford, to take to the VIR Full Course in HPDE-Intro sessions or to the Patriot Course for HyperFest’s HPDE taste test, better known as HyperDrive. Those not in Mustangs could still drive that weekend in NASA Mid-Atlantic’s traditional HPDE program or try their hand at the road course with HyperDrive.

Two notable track car rental companies were there to chauffeur those not quite ready to drive themselves around VIR. Renegade, like a Turo for track cars, offered one-lap demos around the full circuit. Kaizen Autosport, a known track car rental outfit, provided single-lap demos in the Camaro 1LE and three-lappers in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo.

An automotive amusement park would be missing something if it only offered asphalt-based attractions. Going 100 mph over a billiard table-smooth track is fun, but other types prefer to get their kicks going a little slower through the air and over rougher terrain. WARN Industries, one of HyperFest’s headline sponsors, was there to introduce a few new faces to the thrills of off-roading.

Again, the options were there to suit different interests. Those who wanted to experience an off-road Jeep or another popular modified 4×4 were able to scratch that itch by hitching a ride with a seasoned professional along a high-speed obstacle course or through the wooded trails surrounding VIR.

Sarek, a local Rover outfitter, put on its own kind of obstacle course — the kind that involves more vertical movement than horizontal. Rock climbing in a vehicle is an alien sensation for most folks, which is why Cobetto describes it as “the most fun you can have 4 mph.”

Chaos Fabrication catered to those who enjoy getting airborne. They offered enthusiasts ride-alongs in their custom Broncos and Raptors along a three-quarter-mile course filled with box jumps and other ramps designed to give riders a demonstration of the wondrous developments in off-road shock design.

WARN followed up its variety of off-road demos with an open invitation to the other vendors to compete in a two-hour karting extravaganza at VIR’s karting track, followed by a dinner under their tent. Just one of many gestures given that weekend to help establish more camaraderie among all different stripes of automotive enthusiasts.

Cobetto’s P.T. Barnum gene has done a lot in shaping the event. “I like to think of HyperFest as a combination of IMSA, night club, and county fair all mushed together.”

The Koni Downhill Attack by Jet-Hot Coatings had entrants remove the motors from their Mattel Power Wheels cars, don safety gear, and race down a particularly dramatic portion of the track known as The Rollercoaster, where they experienced a 180 foot drop over one-eighth of a mile. More than 100 racers showed up to compete in “the greatest yard sale soapbox derby on the planet,” as Cobetto described it.

With so many different attractions on offer, even the aforementioned weather concerns didn’t stop people from coming in droves. Every square foot of VIR’s’ 1,300 acres that could hold a camping space or a spectator car was used. By noon on Saturday, the general admission parking lot was packed, prompting the HyperFest staff to open up other spaces.

“When we first moved HyperFest from Summit Point to VIR, we were concerned with filling up such a large space. It was like being a BB in a boxcar, but now our challenge is having enough space for everyone next year. It’s a good problem to have,” Cobetto admitted.

This year’s event also marked record numbers of vendors/partners, which is encouraging enough. Clearly, people are willing to participate in and witness firsthand motorsports in all its forms.

In 2001, the HyperFest concept of having a lifestyle event at a road race facility was conceived by Cobetto and then-director of Carlisle’s Custom Compact show, Mike DeFord. Its growth over the last 23 years confirms the potential of a multifaceted motorsport event to sustain the interest of multiple demographics through economic downturns, which, with a sport as expensive as this, is remarkable.

It takes a great deal of work and innovation to keep things fresh, though, and as strenuous as it is to organize on this size, something this big usually has the benefit of attracting mainstream attention. This gives it the chance to evolve into something truly massive. “It’s transcended the typical NASA weekend and is now on the verge of becoming a “‘Mecca’ of the motorsports community.”

As the Air Force has recently expressed interest in conducting an F-22 flyover in 2025, maybe Cobetto can relax for a while, but with the rate at which his brainchild is growing, it isn’t likely.

Images courtesy of Valters Boze, Larry Chen, Scott Paul ST-Images, Joseph Euskolitz and Tony Politi

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