When it comes to motorsports, rain is the great equalizer. It knocks aero-laden prototypes and formula cars down to the level of GT machines and fast door-slammers. It brings 800hp, late-model, pro-level drift cars within striking distance of a skilled driver behind the wheel of a naturally aspirated S13. Even in the show scene, rain might be enough to keep the cleanest cars out of contention, allowing the diehards and daily-driven heroes to have their day. Rain doesn't care if you're young, old, rich or broke, and if you're not ready for it, you're going to have a bad time.
But there's a flipside to all of this. If you are ready for it, rain is what can be the difference between just another car event, and a truly awesome car event. Rain is the single most "screw it!" inducing element of them all. Already a little wet or dirty? Go for broke in a NASA Rally Sport WRX or RAGE buggy ride-along; I promise you'll have an awesome time. Already know the limits to your weekend track car? Take it out on the wet track and learn them again, as if it were a 1,000hp monster. Not afraid of a little water? Drive your exo in a downpour for an incomparably exhilarating experience. After all, you'll dry out before you know it.
Attendees of this year's 17th-annual Hyperfest bash at Virginia Int'l Raceway got to experience both sides of that coin during some intermittent (and at times, legendary) rainfall during the event's first two days, and also enjoy a full day of sun the third—perfect for experiencing all that one of the nation's biggest and most diverse automotive festivities has to offer.
First and foremost, VIR is one of the nation's greatest road racing facilities, so NASA competition in a variety of classes and run groups persisted throughout the three-day weekend, allowing for race machines of all conceivable configuration to battle each other and the elements seemingly without end.
Interspersed throughout NASA racing were two run groups reserved for the cars of the Tire Rack's Ultimate Track Car Challenge. Now a regular and widely known event, the UTCC is really simple. Cars and drivers must pass a NASA safety inspection, the winning car/driver are they who clock the single fastest laps of the weekend (along with several class winners whose cars fall into various brackets) ... and that's about it. Competition is open to just about anything (it is the Ultimate Track Car Challenge, after all), and the diversity and potency of the machines that show up often reflect that. This year was no different.
New to competition and VIR alike was Canada's William Au-Yeung and his record-breaking time-attack 9th-gen Civic, looking the odds-on favorite duo to take the overall win after decimating Road Atlanta's FWD track record and Global Time Attack competition the week prior. But when an oil-cooler adapter plate failed in warm-up driving and led to a fast and furious engine fire, William and the Civic bowed out of competition and cleared the way for Franklin Futrelle and an Elan NP01 to take the win with a blazing-fast 2:01.083 lap—roughly four seconds faster than its next-closest competitor.
Class wins were also earned in categories like "Fastest Vintage," "Fastest BMW," "Fastest AWD," and the like, but it was the "Fastest FWD" winner that caught our eye: Justin Crenshaw and his insane 400hp turbocharged Scion xA. We're not sure why anyone would turbocharge the xA's fuel-siphoning, pint-sized 1.5L mill when plenty of more capable Toyota swap options exist, but ... Justin's results speak for themselves.
Residing within the VIR main course is the smaller, elevation-laden, amoeba-shaped Patriot course, which has traditionally served as ground zero for past years' Street Driven Tour drifting antics, and this year hosted two slide-ride side dishes: Pro Drift Ride-alongs, from Formula D pros like Vaughn Gittin Jr., Chelsea DeNofa, Forrest Wang, Dirk Stratton, Ryan Litteral, Steve Angerman, and more; and the Cosmis Racing Wheels U.S. Drift Shootout.
For as awesome as the former always is, that last one really deserves special focus. For the first time, Formula Drift sanctioned pro-am organizers (in this case, FD Pro judge Brian Eggert), conducted what amounts to an entire pro-am season in a single event, inviting a massive amount of competitors to battle through two huge brackets, down to three final competitors and one overall winner, who each won Formula D Pro 2 licenses.
Nearly 100 competitors vied for admittance. Thirty-eight of the maximum 40 qualifiers from 18 states made the cut (with two unable to start tandem competition), and when it was all said and done 14-year-old UTV-champ-turned-drifter Branden Sorensen from Las Vegas won the whole shebang from behind the wheel of his 212 Performance, stroked-LS3-swapped E46 BMW M3, becoming the youngest driver ever to earn an FD license.
Dustin Miles, a former Pro 2 driver from Lawrenceville, Ga., reasserted himself and his 1JZ Nissan 240SX as a force to be reckoned with on the pro circuit by finishing Second, and Wood River, Ill.'s Derek Madison nabbed Third Place and a license from behind the wheel of his LS1-powered 240SX.
While the racers and drifters occupied VIR's two road courses, around and throughout it all were the supporting events that really make a great Hyperfest installment. This year they were the Exedy Rally and Rage buggy ride-alongs, the Maxxis Tires Off Road Experience (where attendees could try their hand at navigating a brutal obstacle course in borrowed vehicles!), helicopter rides, lawnmower racing, and tons of other assorted silliness and serious business.
The much-anticipated Japanese Classics Mega Meet and car show was sadly hampered a bit by all the rain and mud, but still a decent crop of hardcore enthusiasts battled the elements to take home prizes and our respect.
As for that silliness ... in case you're thinking that Hyperfest is all about fun, it is. After the serious business of racing had concluded on the second day of festivities, drivers, professional racers like Andy Lally (whom you'll remember from our FF Battle and Show Car Shootout), and fans took to the "rollercoaster" section of the VIR main track for another installment of the Koni Power Wheels downhill attack.
Pretty much a soapbox race for big kids in small plastic cars, this year's competition was the event's biggest yet, and was celebrated with the addition of blockades on track, and a "water balloon salute" from fans as racers charged or otherwise skidded by.
And if that wasn't enough there was the timeless event-ending brouhaha: the Tire Massacre. No exploding flywheels and engine fires, no rented golf-car antics, just a whole lot of creative and colorful tire roasting, followed this year with an afterparty headlined by Japan's incredibly talented turntablist/fiddlist DJ Manifesto.
With another year squarely in the books, NASA, NASA Rally Sport, VIR, and all their partners and supporters would like to remind you that the 2018 motorsports season is still ramping up, and—no matter what you're into on four wheels—there's lots more fun to be had. Rain or shine.