Into qualifying the rain intensified and it was a properly wet track going out of the pre-grid area. Early laps saw Deven up into the higher midfield briefly as he set his best time early in the session, but then couldn’t manage to improve upon it, spinning into the first hairpin and clipping the rumble strip curbs - clipping off his drive chain in the process and ending his session prematurely. This saw him plummet down the rankings and into 21st by the end of qualifying.
So another frustrating qualifying session, which has been an unfortunate theme this season, saw the team looking at another tough uphill battle in the qualifying sprint heats to climb the grid for the semi-final race to come.
Sprint 1 saw our man drive a clean if uneventful race where he struggled to make any headway after a decent start where he was able to hold position. The 6 lap wet race ended with a 19th place finish after penalties and a DNF in the field.
Sprint 2 was a similar story, but this time out start was stronger, with Deven climbing 3 places into the first hairpin and able to hold 2 of those positions through the first lap. Lacking an real pace in the conditions, he fought his way to 17th after several drivers were not able to keep their karts on track, and along with penalty assessments, etc, the official result was 17th.
But there was just too much of a gap in single lap pace to really take the fight up the field, and it was defensive racing that was the name of the day for the inexperienced man, who just wasn’t on form on the day.
Nevertheless, he came into the Final race, lined up in the 2nd to last row, with determination etched upon his little boy face. Fear would not get the best of him on this day. Getting off the line well on the rolling start, he took a couple of positions in the long sweeping first corner. However, he lost out on the approach to the first hair pin on the following lap, getting out-braked a bit too easily and conceding positions as a result. The net result being that he finished where he started the race, in 20th spot.
It was a disappointing day for everyone involved, but in retrospect, things need to be put into perspective. It has been a long a grinding rookie season for both team and driver, and the expectation to be on top fighting form every weekend can be an overwhelming prospect for a young man at the tender age of 9 years old.
The Team Principal was there to defend his own. “Look, we’ve got a good young kid here who has done everything we’ve asked of him this season so far. That he’s had a bad weekend of form can’t really be put squarely on him either. We’ve let him down as a team more than he has us this year, and he has always supported us with a smile, and we are going to do the same. He’ll be back in fighting form before you know it, and we just need to concentrate on making sure he has everything he needs to focus on that and nothing else. We’ll be back for the KCV in Uddevalla next week, and then the final round of the SKCC after that. That’s our focus and then development of next year’s platform has to be in full focus.”
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With it being too late to do anything about it on site, it was going to be a rough one again. The racing machine would have to be sent back to the machining center after the race day for straightening, with the root cause of the out-of-shaped-ness not able to be determined. It was probably one of the early season shunts we were involved in, and then getting progressively worse with every little incident subsequent to the initial damage.
The only thing to help us out now would be weather. If it was damp and/or wet, the effectively broken chassis would have a more limited effect on the rear grip, which was basically non-existent and impossible to setup for on a non-straight frame.
Things seemed to be going our way though in the morning, when the team arrived back at the track. It was very damp, and the first free practice session saw about 40% of the field on rain tires, including Grabko GP. It paid off as well, as Deven showed good form and potential, driving his way up to 5th in the time tables for a long period in the session and ending up a very respectable 13th by the time it ended.
But the damp conditions were short-lived. The rain that hung in the air never came, and as the other classes made their runs, the track dried up. By the time the second free practice session was underway, it was slick tires being the only option in almost completely dry conditions.
And the back end just wouldn’t stick. Many heated discussions between race engineers and driver ensued, and floods of tears of and frustration later, it was decided that the team put in the best setup possible for rear grip, almost a wet race chassis setup, and then go out and fight at the back, and try to get through the race day, setting our own internal lap time and result goals.
10 laps later and he was there, right on the tail of the driver ahead, but it was one thing to catch up and another to make the pass. And so it was, that Deven made one attempt and couldn’t make it stick in the quick turn 2 that sets up for the first hairpin, turn 3, exiting out onto the long back straight, and he almost ended up losing positions because of it. He now had 2 laps left to catch back up and make another attempt. He did catch up on the last lap, but this is where it all unravelled for him, unfortunately.
Having done all the hard work, he made a very ill-advised dive into the same corner, this time from at least 2 kart lengths behind, and it did not end well. He got up into the rear bumper of the driver ahead and took off their exhaust in the process. He half spun as a result and lost his hard earned position, limping across the line in 30th and ruining the race for the driver ahead as well.
Not a great way to end the day, especially after having worked so hard to even get where he had - to the limited result that would have been a small victory given the handicap he had dealt with all day.
But you live and you learn, and as the team packed up, dismantling the kart and sending the frame off separately to the machining center, it was a philosophical and reflective atmosphere that settled over the caravan.
Our Team Principal’s comments mirrored the mood. “We’ve got to take stock now and regroup. The start to the second half of the season has been really tough for us, with mechanical issues left and right, one after the other - even our race tent has let us down and broken - now the latest blow being the discovery of the bend in the chassis here at Klippan, and you have to say that we have had more than our fair share of bad luck. But you know what they say, ‘you make your own luck.’ I still believe that, and so doing things in the right way, staying positive, and not getting down on each other is going to be critical to turning this around. We are going to have a thorough inspection of the equipment and make sure we don’t have any of these issues when we come back to the track in Gothenburg in 2 weeks time, where we hope to be able to put in a more representative performance.”
When asked about the incidents in the semi-final and final, he had this to say, “Yeah, these were a couple of rookie things that happen sometimes. In the semi (final) we had a situation where a driver tries to pass around the outside, and our guy is driving the racing line. Ask anyone, in any class here on the grid, and if they are truthful they’ll agree. In the final that was a simple matter of a driver making a hot headed decision to make a lunge on the final lap, a decision that he regrets. No more to be said about that. All credit to Deven though, he is a sportsman through and through. He apologized for both incidents of his own initiative, and he's really more down about both of them than he should be. He’s a good kid and hopefully will learn from these.”
So there you have it folks, yet another #grassrootsracing adventure on the road that in #racinglife! See you next time!
This presented a podium opportunity to the fledgling racer. If he could get a good start and get past the J60 kart just ahead on the start, while his closest competitors got stuck behind, there might be a chance to build a gap and snatch the final podium spot in the final.
This was the strategy and the hope, and it got even more exciting with a very light sprinkling of rain that was threatening to wreak havoc in the final. The rain, though never quite materialized more than a few drops, not enough to cause a real difference, and the strategy never quite materialized either. Our man’s start was good enough, but he got caught out of position going into turn 2 and lost 2 positions, one of which he made back immediately in the next corner, but the damage had been done. He had lost the initiative and couldn’t get past the J60 kart, while 2 of his main rivals, Dante in the number 77 and Edvard Spangenberg in the number 67, both did.
Deven was not done, though, and on the 3rd lap he made sure to get it done, sweeping to the inside of turn 2 and then extending and making the pass stick before exiting the first S’s onto the back straight away. By that time, though, Edvard had made too much of a gap for Deven to chase onto, and he never quite came within striking distance to try and snatch up another place.
It had gotten so bad that on lap 12, with just one to go, the engine gave up completely cutting out going into turn 3, the entrance to a technical uphill section of the track that led to the back straight. Deven managed to get the engine going again, but then had gotten picked up by the leading pack having taken the checkered flag behind him. He followed them into the pits without taking the checkered flag himself, but due to 3 other DNF’s was classified 29th and would start there for the feature final.
Outright panic had ensued in the paddock in the team, desperate to find anything that could give Deven a chance to do something in the final. An engine change to the old specification motor that was well overdue for a full service was the only option left as all other avenues had already been exhausted.
The young driver kept his head and got the kart loose by shunting himself forward, but just as it seemed he was free and was going to get going again, there was a loud “bang!” and the clutch package blew itself apart into tiny little pieces, impacting the cylinder head and blowing a hole right in it, as well as smashing apart the chain guard, and start motor housing. The engine went into super high revs decoupled from the clutch and Deven and the track stewards did their best to turn off the engine, a 3 person concerted effort that drew applause from the crowd when they finally managed to get it stopped by choking it at the air filter.
This was lap 2 of 14, so Deven had a long wait ahead of him stand at the 2nd steward post to spectate the race. Did out young development driver sit down and sulk, ruing his back luck, and focusing on the negatives??
Not our little man - no. In an impressive display of sportsmanship, Deven spontaneously stood up, and cheered on each and every remaining driver in the race until the end, clapping and giving thumbs up as they passed by. This was noted by the race director, who gave Deven the Sportsmanship of the Weekend Award post race. It was a touching ned to what had been an extremely frustrating weekend.
Team Principal Dan Grabko had this to say, with a rueful shaking of his head - “I couldn’t believe it - he (Deven) just all of the sudden stood up and started cheering on the rest of the field. We’re very proud of the young man - there are a lot of racers out here that definitely would not have had such a positive attitude after such a frustrating, stressful, and chaotic race day that we’ve unfortunately experienced here today. To have the presence of mind and the enthusiasm to encourage his fellow competitors after such a horrible race day for him personally was actually quite extraordinary. On our technical side, we’ve had an old motor explode on us in the end and another that we need to have a full inspection of, which won’t be easy - we’ve only got a few days to get our house in order for Klippan next week, but we will do our best to get him a machine under him that he can go out there and fight with.”
Keep fighting the good fight, and we’ll see you next time! Join the journey, support #grassrootsracing - support Grabko GP!
A Long Road
After that, the team made the drastic decision to replace motors mid-race day to give Deven a chance to show his true pace. It was a frantic scene as the engine swap needed to be made and tested in less than an hour, between the two Sprint Races. The mechanics and engineers did a magnificent job and finished the change with 10 minutes to spare.
Results came immediately. Deven made a decent start in the second Sprint Race, now able to trust in his machine again, and fought his way up through the field, making some fine overtaking moves and crossing the finish line in 9th spot in the end.
The combined results of the two Sprint Races meant that he would be starting 12th on the grid for the Semifinal. Not a total disaster but it would mean he would have to make up some places in order to be able to fight for some hardware today. However, in a bid to get more performance, more mapping changes were made. The engine was running better, but still not revving up the way it should.
This proved counterproductive, though, and ended up ruining any real chance of taking home any hardware from the race day. The adjustments made to the engine map caused the high end to not rev up at all, although the low end power remained. This meant no top speed on the straights for Deven, and he fell back in the pack as the Semifinal went on. It was painful and frustrating for the team to look on as Deven fought tooth and nail, but got absolutely nowhere. He ended up crossing the line in 2nd to last place, and then got bumped down to last post-race because of a 3s front fairing infraction.