Livelihood, Future, Dream
By Laura Flood and Isaiah Rosier
Located at the Summit Point Motorsports Park near Charlestown, W.Va., HyperFest is an automotive festival which attracts thousands of race fans and drivers. The 11th annual event, which took place on June 16 and 17, boasted activities including road racing, drift competitions, a 24-hour endurance race, car-decoration contests and drifting ride-alongs.
Three drivers, two professionals and an amateur showcasing his car build, took time out of their action-packed weekends to discuss the HyperFest experience and talk about their own backgrounds.
Name: James Evans
Hometown: Parkton, Md.
Profession: Drift racer
Car: Nissan 350Z
Sponsor: Sikky Manufacturing
To call James Evans an adrenaline junky would be an understatement. Evans is a man who lives to feel the thrill that you can only get from doing extreme sports. For the past nine years, Evans has been competing as a professional drift racer.
Evans did not start his career in extreme sports with racing; instead, he was a competitive snowboarder getting his adrenaline fix in the icy air. It wasn’t until an accident that Evans started drifting.
“I used to snowboard until I took a bad fall and got beat up pretty bad. That’s how I got into racing,” he said.
Evans went to HyperFest and competed in the Xtreme Drift Circuit race with his Nissan350Z. Evans has attended the event before.
“HyperFest is crazy. It’s definitely one of my favorite events,” Evans said. “It’s getting bigger and bigger each year. There’s probably close to 20,000 people here this year.”
Years of practice and competition have sharpened Evans’ drifting skills to a keen edge. Drift racers deliberately oversteer, losing traction in the rear wheels and causing the vehicle to slide around corners. Many would think total concentration is what a drift racer needs, but according to Evans, that can actually hurt a drifter. Evan believes that losing a little focus can loosen a driver up and allow him to race better.
“You don’t want to be all tensed up. You don’t want to be in overdrive,” he said. “You want to be at around 80 percent.”Like any athlete who has competed professionally, Evans has learned from his mistakes. He has flipped cars, totaling many of them, but that never holds him back from getting behind the wheel.
“[Crashing] is all part of the game,” he said. “When you’re trying hard, you’re going to hit shit.”
Drift racers drive qualifying laps to limit competition. The 16 fastest racers are paired up and go head-to-head on the course. Evans made it to round four of the Xtreme Drift Circuit, placing fourth overall in the competition.
Name: Devin Cates
Hometown: Fairfax, Va.
Profession: Student/ Road Racer, sophomore economics and music major at James Madison University.
Car: Silver Spec Mazda Miata, (Has raced Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Grand Am, Volkswagen GTI, Ford Mustang)
Sponsors: Finish Line Productions, Cates Engineering, Cutaway Creations
Devin Cates has been driving for five years. And he’s only 20. While other kids skipped school to stay home and play video games, Cates found himself playing hooky throughout high school and college to race.
“It’s definitely tough balancing school and racing,” Cates said. “I tend to miss a lot of classes. Some of my teachers aren’t always happy about it.”
For Cates, racing is in his blood.
“My dad was a big-time racer back in the ‘80s,” Cates said. “He was actually a local champ at the Summit Point track.”
Brian Cates, who, like his son, drives a Miata, has won eight road racing championships since his first competition at the Summit Point Motorsports Park in 1983. He won his first Sports Car Club of America championship in 1988, after several second and third place finishes in the mid-1980s.
Devin Cates acquired his National Automotive Sports Association competition license with High Performance Driving Events in 2006. Soon afterward, he competed in his first road race at the Summit Point Raceway. He attended a SCCA driving school in 2007. In 2008, Cates placed fourth in the NASA regional championships with his Spec Miata and third in the national championships. Cates won several SCCA races in 2009, before taking a break from racing to focus on his studies. The last time he raced, in August 2011, his motor blew.
“Last year wasn’t that great for me,” he said. “We’re just trying to get back into the swing of things with [HyperFest].”
Though Cates has raced several times on the Summit Point Raceway, this year was his first HyperFest experience.
“HyperFest is awesome,” Cates said. “It’s a great gathering of racers and race fans.”
In this year’s competition, Brian and Devin Cates finished 14th and 16th, respectively, in a field of 41 cars in Saturday’s main race. The two suffered car troubles and were unable to finish the race on Sunday.
Name: Elliott Kletter
Hometown: Shenandoah Junction, W.Va.
Profession: Student/ Employee of Hollywood Casino at Charles Town
Car: Volkswagen GTI
Elliott Kletter, of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va. stands proud by his finished project. For the past year and a half Kletter had been rebuilding a Volkswagen GTI that he showed off at HyperFest. While he is excited be showing off his hard work at HyperFest, Kletter dreams of something bigger; he dreams of becoming a racer.
“My passion comes into the building, but enjoying what I do comes into the racing,” said Kletter.
Kletter is moving away from being just a car builder and is working towards becoming a competitive racer. This up and comer started racing through the SCCA in the Super Tour Over class and has competed in four races. Kletter finished each race in the top three.
Racing has its own unique world. There are many different types of races that a racer can compete in. Kletter has been focusing his attentions on road races, which can typically run anywhere from three minutes to two hours. However, Kletter has his eyes set on endurance races.
“Endurance races are 24 hours long. You take six-hour shifts,” he said. “I would love to test myself with that kind of a race.”
Kletter, like other racers, enjoys the thrill one experiences going over 100 mph down a racetrack. However, he got into cars not for speed, but simply because he was good at it.
“I just kind of figured if you’re not good a sports you have to be good at something, and I was good at cars,” said Kletter.
Kletter is correct about being good at cars. Not only is he proving himself as a racer, but as a racecar builder. The Volkswagen GTI that he was proudly showing off at HyperFest was the first car he ever built, and the one he will start racing. He has invested $60,000 into the car, which currently has 550 horsepower.
Although he did not compete in HyperFest, it was an important event for this racer to attend. He said that he hopes to acquire a sponsor in order to be able to race full time.
“This kind of lifestyle can get really expensive. You have to build the cars and then travel around to show them or race them,” he said. “That’s a trailer, entry fee, gas, hotels and food. It really stacks up quickly.”
While he still has a long way to go before he becomes pro, Kletter is well on his way. With a strong passion for cars, the sky is the limit for this amateur driver.