By Jeff Nations
When Chris Cobetto put on the inaugural Hyperfest at West Virginia's Summit Point Raceway 12 years ago, he likely encountered a potential fan base puzzled by just what he was promoting that Saturday.
The motorsport competition of drifting was still a relatively new concept in the United States -- the movie "The Fast and the Furious" had just come out that year, introducing many to drifting.
"The U.S. Drift Nationals was the very first professional drifting event in the United States," Cobetto said of that inaugural Hyperfest headlining attraction. "It's always been a unique event. There's really nothing like it."
This year's 12th annual Hyperfest is scheduled for Saturday at Summit Point, and the US Drift Pro/Am again is the featured event. Drivers will compete side by side on Summit Point's main track in tandem drifting, taking turns leading and following through the twisting course as each tries to force the other into a mistake. Tandem drifting is scored by a panel of judges, with the winner chosen by the smoothness of their drifting run.
At Hyperfest, fans also get a chance to experience drifting through a ride-along program. Champion drift racer Vaughn Gittin does the driving, and for $75 fans can ride along on a trip through the track's Jefferson Circuit. Riders must be 18.
"It's a pretty cool thing and unique to Hyperfest," said Cobetto, the event organizer since its founding. "If you're into drifting and want to ride along with a professional driver, you can pay to do that and the money will go to charity."
Hyperfest also features off-road rally ride-alongs on Summit Point's rally track. The fee for the rally ride-alongs is $15.
For those who prefer to do the driving, Hyperfest also offers the opportunity to drive your own. With an instructor riding along, drivers 18 and older can take their own cars onto the Jefferson Circuit for a high-speed trip around the track. That experience will cost $50.
The day is more than just drifting and ride-alongs, though. NASA Pro Road Racing will be holding various events throughout the day. In the Thunder Group, fans can watch American V8s, Camaros against Mustangs, or anything goes in the Super Unlimited competition. The Autobahn Group features the German Touring Sportscar Challenge and the BMW Spec E30s and Spec3s dueling on the track. In the Lightning Group, the Honda Challenge and the Spec Mazda Miatas hit the track for more head-to-head racing. NASA's professional instructors will also be on hand to train prospective drivers looking to earn their own racing license.
On the other end of the scale, the 24 Hours of Lemons Junker Enduro will run -- for as long as the cars do -- on the track's Shenandoah Circuit.
More spectator-friendly events include the Adrenaline Crew Extreme Stunt Riders, and the ever-popular Rollover Contest (the driver with the most rolls wins).
"It would be hard to fit anything else in," Cobetto said. "We're actually considering at some point going to a two-day event so we can fit some more events in."
Other spectator participation activities include the Rice-Rice Challenge, which involves teams of four "building" their ideal rally car. Hyperfest also features Go Kart rentals, Blind Driver Golf Cart Racing, and the Dare-Devil Throwdown Games.
For all ages, the day offers a Kids Zone featuring inflatables, an obstacle course and a rock climbing wall.
Cobetto is expecting another big crowd for Hyperfest.
"The weather is always a factor in an outdoor setting, but historically our track record is about 10 percent [growth] a year," Cobetto said. "If that's the case, we could be looking at maybe 14,000 to 16,000 this year."
General admission for the Hyperfest is $25. Children 12 and under are admitted free. Gates open at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.
For more information on Hyperfest, visit www.hyper-fest.com.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>