It can be risky to move. Just ask any business owner who has changed locations. There’s always that lingering question whether customers will follow.
You also could ask NASA Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Chris Cobetto, who this year moved HyperFest from its home of 13 years at Summit Point Motorsports Park to its new location at Virginia International Raceway — a 4.5-hour drive away.
“There was some anxiety in making the venue change due to the fact that we’ve been at Summit Point for 13 years,” Cobetto said. “You go to a new market, to a new venue, you don’t know how it’s going to be received. So we had some trepidation, but when we made the announcement, it was received very well from people in that region.”
Summit Point served HyperFest well for 13 years, but Cobetto noted that as the event has grown, Summit Point began to present limitations.
“Summit Point does a lot of training for the U.S. State Department. They do a lot of evasive driving training,” Cobetto said. “It’s a huge business for them. We had a lot of space when we first started doing HyperFest, but over the years, the real estate around the facility started being used up by the State Department. They’d build buildings or they’d take over a track or whatever. So, as we are trying to expand, it got to the point where it was very intimate, but I was running out of room. The move to VIR, it’s huge, and while we had a lot of people in there, it can still take a lot more. There’s a lot of space for us to expand.”
As Cobetto points out, VIR’s facility, which is more than 900 acres, is much larger than Summit Point. VIR’s location doesn’t hurt, either. It’s more centrally located on the East Coast than Summit Point.
Some HyperFest regulars, people who attended each year, made the trip this from as far away as Pennsylvania and Maryland, Cobetto said. The good news is that HyperFest enjoyed the return of many sponsors. For example, the U.S. Marines, Monster Energy, Exedy Racing Clutch, Koni and Eagle One all made the trip to VIR.
Of course, there were all the usual activities that make HyperFest “the automotive amusement park.” Spectators could pay to ride along in a drift car on the Patriot Circuit with pro drift drivers Vaughn Gittin Jr., Chris Forsberg and Ryan Tuerck. There were also HyperDrives, ride-alongs in a GT3 Cup car courtesy of Taggart Autosport, which also brought its Rally Fighter Pro off-road car. There also was burnout contest, car shows, autocross, karting, rally rides and even helicopter rides. Those come in addition to the spectator games such as hot pepper eating contest, the Hippity Hop races and a pit man challenge in which competitors rolled stacked tires. Cobetto even added a Ferris Wheel this year.
Then, of course, there was the action on track. Some 400 NASA HPDE and Time Trial drivers and racers took to the track for the weekends at the track we all know and love. There were more than 100 HyperDrivers, 25 drivers from NASA Rally Sport and 45 to 50 drifters. You add it all up, there were close to a 600 cars in event, and that doesn’t include the car show, at about 100 or so, that also turned out.
One spillover benefit that also came with the move to VIR is that the event took on a more family friendly vibe. People came, watched the exciting action on track, maybe took part in the spectator games, then went back to their camping spaces and relaxed.
“VIR is such a nice facility that people have a tendency to respect the grounds more,” Cobetto said. “VIR’s staff is very adept at handling large crowds because they have premier events there on a regular basis. The tone is set from the beginning. We try to set the tone that this is about motorsports. It’s a party, but it’s a motorsports party.”
This year’s HyperFest boasted attendance numbers similar to pro sports car and pro motorcycle racing events. Cobetto wants HyperFest to become an event similar to the 12-Hours of Sebring or the Daytona 500 or Sturgis. He wants it to become one of those events you just have to see at least once in your life.
“We’d like to see 30,000, 40,000 people coming to the event,” he said. “And it’s certainly possible because it’s location is smack in the middle of the East Coast. And we’re going to try to do it a little later in May next year. If you take a look at what we’re providing, it’s a taste of almost everything on wheels.
“We wanted to create more of a family environment,” he continued. “We continue to bring the bouncy houses, we got the Ferris Wheel. Kids got in for free. We had autograph signings. The idea is to have the families enjoy it, but also to introduce at a young age people to NASA and to road racing.”
A full weekend of NASA racing was as treat for the spectators on hand for HyperFest 2015. Fuel fields in Spec E30 and Spec Miata shows that amateur racing is just as exciting as the pros.
Spectators and fans lined the Patriot Circuit to watch the drifting action, which included the “slide alongs” and even some drifting in a new Ford F-150, and vie for a chance at a T-shirt fired from a cannon.
HyperFest at VIR featured more of a family environment. NASA Mid-Atlantic rented bouncy houses, and even a Ferris Wheel this year. Kids got in for free. There were autograph signings. “The idea is to have the families enjoy it,” said NASA Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Chris Cobetto (with microphone), “but also to introduce at a young age people to NASA and to road racing.”
Every kind of car you could imagine was at Virginia International Raceway, site of HyperFest and this year’s Eastern States Championships. Taggart Autosport was selling rides in a Lamborghini convertible till it broke. Then they started giving rides in a Porsche Cup car. Taggart even brought along its Rally Fighter Pro car and was selling rides on VIR’s rally course. Vaughn Gittin Jr.’s RTR display included this flared 1969 Mustang.