1997 BMW E36 M3 racing at VIR

Hyped Up: Three Days at VIR for NASA Mid-Atlantic’s HyperFest

Years ago, NASA Mid-Atlantic director Chris Cobetto wanted to bring the throngs of people typically seen spectating at pro racing events to the amateur level. And so, 18 years ago, HyperFest was born. Combining a typical NASA weekend of road racing, time trial, and HPDE with spectator-friendly activities (drifting, off-roading, ride-alongs, helicopter tours, and live music, among others), the event has grown and now boasts a turnout in the thousands.

Two Thursdays ago, I hooked up my trailer and pointed the nose of a 2019 Toyota Tundra south, with Virginia International Raceway in my sights.

The weather last year was mixed, with heavy rain on the Saturday of the event. This year, things stayed dry all three days, but with highs in the mid-90s, the drivers and cars alike struggled to stay cool.

Friday was host to the Grassroots Motorsports Ultimate Track Car Challenge, a time trial-style of event in which cars of all types compete for fastest lap, among other prizes. We saw a variety of competitors, including my favorite oddball, a Honda factory-supported Odyssey race van.

Honda Odyssey racecar
The Honda “Hotrodyssey” Race Van. Photo: Tomlinsonspeed

I spent time Friday afternoon in practice sessions with both my E36 M3 racecar and my friend Jeff’s BMW Z4M Coupe, and had some fun in both cars. It was good to get re-acclimated to VIR and the E36 after our last visit in March, and I ran some consistent 2:11.xx and 2:12.xx lap times, which made me happy enough. I’ve run 2:10’s before, but high temperatures throughout this weekend made “hot laps” harder to achieve.

GTS2 leaders Mike, Scott and Matt all off track thanks to an oil spill at turn 16

Saturday and Sunday were race days, and Saturday in particular was a doozy. We saw just about every color of flag possible during the 30-minute race. I had a good start, getting ahead of a few competitors. Several laps in, an out-of-class car put oil down at the bottom of the “roller coaster,” right before a hard right turn onto the front straightaway. Our class leaders were too close to the problem car to avoid it, and several went off track after sliding through the oil spill. Despite some minor damage, most GTS2 drivers were able to rejoin the race, albeit with some position changes. I was just far enough behind the oil spill to hear “oil at turn 16” on the radio and dive left to avoid it.

We were pulled in under a full-course black flag while the emergency crew cleaned things up, then sent back out for a single-file restart. The restart was confusing to many of us, myself included, as the race was restarted on the back straightaway. My competitor Mark caught the rest of us sleeping and gained several positions before we could get back to speed. Nonetheless, I pressed on, keeping ahead of a few and chasing down my competitor, Jeremy, in his white E36 sedan.

The white flag came out, indicating the final lap. On that final lap, I did manage to get past Jeremy, but he held on to my back bumper with all he had. It was going to be a fight to keep him away for the remaining couple of turns before the checker – and then, out came a red flag! A Spec E30 had caught fire by Turn 6, and the race was halted yet again. We finished the race under a black flag, but the position gain on Jeremy counted. It was an action-packed race that kept all of us on our toes.

Coming through Oak Tree on two wheels. Photo: Tae Tyson

Saturday night’s crowd-pleasing activities included a drifting show, burnout contest, and downhill Power Wheels race. Some friends took part in the Power Wheels race, which was amusing to watch.

Sunday’s race was less exciting, but ran longer, at 40 minutes. It was a long time to be in the car, and thankfully, my FAST “cool shirt” system helped keep my body temperature down and concentration up. My start was not as good on Sunday, though, and while I kept ahead of Matt in his gray 325is, I wasn’t able to catch Jeremy or the others. Focusing on better starts is definitely what I want to work on next with the crew from Racers360.

With a bag full of sweaty racing gear, I packed up the trailer and headed home. I’ll be taking June off, as I am running some events with my day job’s LGBT organization as part of Capital Pride in Washington DC. The M3 is being sent away for some updates during that time, and I’ll be back on track in July with a combined Mid-Atlantic/Great Lakes event at Pitt Race.

About Jake Thiewes

Fan of all things wheeled. Competes on four wheels with a 1997 BMW M3, and two feet in Spartan Races. Queso enthusiast. Will badger you to come to the track and get rides and/or HPDE seat time, because everyone deserves to be a slightly better driver.

4 thoughts on “Hyped Up: Three Days at VIR for NASA Mid-Atlantic’s HyperFest

  1. Stellar pics by Tae Tyson as always! And oh my – that Hotrodyssey! Reminds me of the souped-up Ody put together by Bisimoto that I saw on the SEMA show circuit a few years back. Congrats on a fun three-dayer. Ever considered shifting to another event like the burnout contest? Lol

    1. The burnout contest could definitely happen! Some friends did it last year, actually, in a cheapo (but surprisingly nice condition) Ford Windstar. They re-routed the washer fluid tubing to the front wheel wells to help keep things spinning. It worked spectacularly and made for some great photos!

  2. Love the van my 48 is home sick a ty rod or at least i hope that is all she’ll see on Friday I have something coming your way next week you may like it ?

    1. Well, a tie rod is thankfully nothing too big to fix! Hopefully that’s it and it’ll be back on the road! I’ll keep an eye out for my mail… 🙂

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