Text and photography by Luke Munnell
Quite possibly the craziest event of them all: after 18 years, HyperFEST continues to reign supreme among gearheads of every persuasion.
It’s a bold statement, we know. Especially for a lowly automotive event in today’s rich landscape of multi-million-dollar music festivals, themed obstacle course runs, playa-centric art/fire retreats, and any other usually heavily branded outdoor activations that come to mind. But if speed and adrenaline are your drugs of choice, and racing, drifting, rally, rock crawling, trail running (and jumping), burnouts, helicopter rides, karting and—yes—even lawnmower racing are your preferred delivery methods, you won’t find a more reliable supplier than HyperFEST.
All those events and more were back on the itinerary for this year’s 18th annual HyperFEST bash at Virginia International Raceway, along with a heavy dose of everything else that seems to come with it over the course of a three-day weekend. And after covering it for the fifth year, I still haven’t found anything better.
HyperFEST began all those years ago as a joint collaboration between NASA Mid-Atlantic regional director Chris Cobetto and Formula D judge Brian Eggert, so it goes without saying that the event’s anchors are road racing and drifting. Of the two, road racing events are still by far the most popular HyperFEST component.
Headlining the weekend was the Tire Rack’s Ultimate Track Car Challenge, which pulled a crazier and more diverse assortment of track-focused rides than in past years. All-out race cars, like winner Adam Romito’s 800hp Dodge Challenger (with a 1:51.537 best lap); highly tuned road cars, like Tyler Pappas’ ‘17 BMW M2; or awesome passion projects, like Michael Holenstein’s radical twin-turbo ‘73 Datsun 240Z fought one another to lay down the fastest single time in a variety of classes, and looked (and sounded!) great doing it.
Around and after UTCC competition were practice, qualifying and race sessions of dozens of NASA racing classes packed into several run groups. One of the great things about VIR’s massive 3.27-mile full course is that it can accommodate multiple run groups at a time, which makes it perfect to host NASA’s biggest event of the year second to the NASA Championships.
NASA time-trial competition offered a time-attack experience for drivers who wanted to compete without wheel-to-wheel risks, which proved a hit among dedicated time-trialers as well as UTCC competitors who stayed for the remainder of the HyperFEST experience.
High-performance driver education (HPDE) sessions also took place between the racing business, open to pretty much any qualified attendee who wanted to get some track time of their own.
And for those wanting the real race car experience without all the investment, there were HyperFEST Race Car Rides. If you’re never felt the speed professional race machines can reach on VIR’s back straight, this was just the thing for you.
Where past years have made HyperFEST’s infield Patriot Course a stop in U.S. Drift’s pro-am competition schedule, or even held a one-day, winner-take-all shootout for FD Pro 2 competition licenses, this year’s format was a lot more relaxed. Basically: just show up and drift.
Drifters would have to pass tech, of course, but drifting was open to beginner, intermediate and advanced drivers from morning ‘till night for each of the event’s three days—an all-you-can-drift buffet, really.
Interspersed with that were pro demos from FD drifters Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Chelsea Denofa, Dirk Stratton, and Austin Meeks.
YouTuber Adam LZ, and FD Pro 2’s Donovan Brockway, Dustin Miles, Branden Sorensen, Brandon McDowell, AJ Muss, and Kenric Meyer provided supplementary demo and ride-along support, and basically ripped the Patriot Course a new one in their own right.
Like the Race Car Rides, there were Drift Rides available for eager fans wanting to get star treatment and destroy a set of tires with their favorite pros. These actually oversold throughout the weekend, so look for more pros to be added next year.
Rally & Off Road
One of VIR’s coolest features is its sprawling expanse of off-track wilderness. Smattered in the woods around the Full Course are a rally stage, rock/debris-laden off-road proving ground, and both upper and lower trails—complete with mud bogs, jumps, and so on.
NASA Rally Sport competition commenced on Sunday, the last day of the event, but attendees could find their way into Rally Rides with willing drivers or Rage Buggy drivers the day before, provided they didn’t mind getting a little (a lot) dirty.
Paved racing and drifting happenings commanded most of my attention this time around, but I did get to pop in to get some snaps of it all. Next year I might just put the cameras down for a while and enjoy it more!
Show and Vendor Row
Anywhere you find a bunch of race cars and people, there’s a good bet that vendors aren’t far behind. And in contrast to those annoying mobile phone, car company or toothpaste branded pop-ups that litter your music festival experience, we generally like our vendors, huh? Especially when they give out free stuff and deep discounts for showgoers, and there were plenty of both at HyperFEST.
This year’s show component was brought by Richmond, VA’s Speed Trend Society and resulted in fewer entries than past years. Nonetheless, there were clean examples of Domestic, Euro and JDM show competitors to be found.
Power Wheels Attack
As the day drew to a close on Saturday, after the serious business of racing and semi-serious business of drift bashing had been handled, it was time to have a little fun. Racers, staff, fans, and just about anyone else crazy enough to do it carried their un-powered, plastic-wheeled, kid-spec faux vehicle of choice over to the “rollercoaster,” at the top of VIR’s Turn 14 of the Full Course, for heats of gravity-and-glory fueled downhill racing.
Competitors had to not only steer clear of each other and toward the finish line after Turn 15, but also watch out for water balloon-chucking fans and road blocks put in place to make a win that much more elusive. Then, winners were invited back for a final championship round, complete with a Le Mans-style start.
But the ultimate pièce de résistance of any HyperFEST Saturday is the Tire Massacre burnout contest, this year presented by X-Force Exhaust. Rev limiters were pegged, tires (and the occasional clutch) were roasted, and donuts were spun.
But at the end of it all, after a defending Tire Massacre champion returned in a new machine, after a dude blew both tires in his buddy’s work truck on a bet, and after some of the off-road guys came to play, two self-proclaimed rednecks earned the most thunderous applause after their push-of-war finalé engulfed the facility in red, white, and blue burnt-rubber glory.
All the Rest
If the debauchery profiled here still isn’t enough to satisfy any lingering cravings for a good time, there was plenty more craziness to see and take part in, complimented by a rich assortment of music, camping, and nighttime festivities on constant rotation of the background of each day of this year’s Hyperfest.
So whether your thing is drifting, racing, rally, off-roading, car shows, burnouts, camping, or partying, these days you’ll probably have an easy time finding an event that caters to it. But if all those things are your thing, there’s still no better place for you than HyperFEST.
Stay connected with HyperFEST here, and check out our gallery for even more shenanigans from this year’s best: