Chris Cobetto has held a competition license since 1998. 2016 marks Cobetto’s 17th year as Regional Director for NASA Mid-Atlantic and 15th year as the director of HyperFest. As a driver, Cobetto’s accomplishments include four Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships in Spec E30, three Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships in American Iron, and Spec E30 National Championships in 2006, 2007 and 2009. He holds lap records in American Iron at VIR, and Spec E30 at the Summit Point and Shenandoah circuits at Summit Point Raceway. He was the principal designer of Dominion Raceway, a new 2-mile road course in Virginia. He lives in the Richmond, Va., area with his wife, Laura, and sons Jack, 14, and Cooper, 10.
Q: You’ve just wrapped up your 15th HyperFest event. Now that you’ve had a chance to take a breath, how did it go?
A: It was phenomenal! We introduced our Off Road Experience and added drifting games, lawnmower racing and the Power Wheels downhill challenge. We had over 700 drivers participating in the event. The weatherman conspired against us for the entire week leading up to the event, calling for a 100 percent chance of rain. Even with the most horrendous forecast in HyperFest history, we still played host to the same number of attendees as we did the year prior. We feel certain that had the forecast been great, we would have seen a 30 percent to 40 percent jump in attendance.
Q: The photographs looked as crazy as ever. What were some of the more interesting stories you heard or things you saw this year that stick out in your mind? Any fainting goats?
A: Ha! No fainting goats this year and besides … what happens at HyperFest stays at HyperFest. However, there was some discussion about how a golf cart ended up on the top of a tractor-trailer.
Q:What contests were most popular this year?
A: The Hot Pepper eating contest is always a winner, but this year we had two new contests. We kicked off the event on Friday with the Grassroots Motorsports Magazine Ultimate Track Car Challenge. On Friday evening when the track went cold, we lined up 10 drivers at the top of VIR’s famed “Rollercoaster,” which has a 380-foot vertical drop from turns 14 through 17. Contestants, including Jayson West dressed as a pirate, provided a Power Wheels vehicle with battery and electric motor removed and raced down the rollercoaster in a soapbox derby sort of competition. They were hitting 30 mph. There were two qualifying races and one championship race. The clear champion, winning all three races and taking home the $100 winner take-all purse, was … of course … the pirate.
The Paul Reed Smith Guitars air guitar contest was very popular and incredibly entertaining. The contestants played a fake guitar, with the winner of the competition taking home a real PRS SE Custom guitar valued at $700.
Q: How well does an event like this bring attention and potential new members to NASA?
A: There is no question that the event introduces many to road racing in general. We just want them to think of NASA first when they consider coming out to play. Our HyperDrive sessions probably do the most to entice the potential HPDE student, however. We introduce almost 175 people to road course driving in one day. Many finished their first HyperDrive ever and asked how to sign up for an entire weekend.
Q: Not that you want to think about next year’s event yet, but what things will you do differently for 2017?
A: We already have a beer tasting, but a partnership with the Virginia Wineries may see a wine-tasting event. A petting zoo would be a great addition for the kid zone. We are talking with Toyo Tires about having Robbie Gordon come up from Charlotte and jump his truck. Oh, and you know you are in the right venue when the owner of the VIR suggests a demolition derby set up in the facilities’ hotel parking lot. I have really wanted to run an East Coast Challenge for Pinewood Derby racing. I’m talking to scouting leaders now to see if we can pull that off.