Older tires as well as the new setup seemed to hamper the pace in the second practice session, as Deven was unable to extract the same confidence at turn-in that he exhibited 2 days earlier. Still, the pack was very compressed with only a couple of tenths seperating 8th from 22nd. It was still thought within the team that the different ride height setup would come into its own as the track warmed and rubbered up, so there was no panic yet.
Qualifying | 7 min | P28
It was at this point of the day that the team started panicking. The session started out well. Since there were 40 entries, the field was split into 2 groups. After the first flying laps, Deven had made a strong showing, 4th fastest in his group. Then something started happening. The mechanical gremlins were back, and with a vengeance. The data showed afterwards, something was causing a top end rev issue yet again, and it was not an easy thing to diagnose.
It crippled Deven’s performance in the session, and in a field this large and this competitive, it was a death sentence. He tumbled down the time sheets even as his times improved, and his driving was spot on. In the end languishing down in the bottom 3rd of the field was his fate. It was a real blow that knocked the wind out the team’s sails. The engine was pored over after the session, with no stone left unturned. But nothing could be found.
It was reluctantly concluded that something in the setup must have not been allowing the engine freedom to rev out of the corners, but there was no such indication in the comparative data. Damage was done now, it would be 19th on the grid for the split group sprint races, and Deven would again have to fight his way from the back. The question was whether the team could give him a machine he could fight with.
Sprint Heat 1 | 7 Laps | P19 —> P19
His first sprint heat he came out fighting, gaining a gritty 2 spots at the start and holding them through the first lap. Then what no one ever wants to see happen, happened. As Deven rounded turn one for the 2nd time, double yellow flags were flashing. There had been a coming together in the fight for position ahead, and Intrepid teammate, and 2022 Kart Cup West Champion, Leo Abrahamsson had come out the worse.
In a tough wheel to wheel battle, his kart had launched up off the inside curbing at the turn 2-3 chicane, and he landed hard back down to the ground, directly into his race seat, appearing to compress his spine and hit chest against the steering wheel. It looks for a moment when he went off the track that was trying to steer his way off the grass and back towards the track, but thought better of it. It was only moments before race officials and the medical team were on their way to the incident. A full course double yellow "slow” procedure was indicated at the end of the 2nd lap as he was checked on. 3 laps later, all under slow procedure, on lap 5, the race was red flagged as it became apparent that he would need medical treatment.
The karts were lined up in the pit lane in single file as they awaited the outcome of the crash. The medical team stretchered Leo off the track and he was ambulanced to hospital for checks on his back. No further information was known as the race was reset from lap 4 and the karts lined up to go out again, in a single file restart. Deven was in 17th position at this point, but it was very apparent that nothing the team had done between qualifying and the first sprint had worked to solve the power application issues. With 3 racing laps left and the field compressed up again due to the restart, he had no chance.
He lost back the two spots he had gained on the first flying lap down the high speed straights, and fought and clawed his way to hold 19th spot through to the chequered flag. The frustration and anger was plain on the young boy’s face as he came off the weigh station in parc fermé afterwards. How much longer would he have to endure this performance deficit?
On a very positive note, news was received later in the day that after x-rays and tests, Leo had been released from hospital and sent home with strong painkillers for observation. The next day it was confirmed that he had been able to walk around under his own power, and it appears no major injuries were sustained. Excellent news to hear.
Feature Final | 13 Laps | P26 —> P26
The downpour lasted about 3 minutes, and track conditions went from dry to soaking wet in almost an instant. There was still almost 2 hours to go before the start of the Formula Mini final, but the rain didn’t completely stop, coming back in little spurts of drizzle on and off. In between were periods of bright, warm sunshine that was causing steam to come off the surface of the track. Meanwhile the team was fed up and had enough. It was all change in the race tent as the kart was torn apart, completely disassembled, and put back together again with factory neutral settings. The ride height on the front and back was reset. The 2nd race motor was mounted, the camber, caster, and toe all put back to neutral race settings. The width front and back as well as the tire pressures were all reset to those that had worked on Friday.
By the time all of this was achieved, it became apparent that it was going to be a wet race. The track was not going to dry up enough quite in time. Deven came back from the track reporting there was still spray coming from the OK class final. There wasn’t much time left, but it had to be done. From the neutral setup just accomplished the front was raised up to give more grip in the back, this increased the toe out and so it was adjusted to be straight and true on both sides. The wheel widths were adjusted and rain tires were fitted and the team made it to the pre-grid with only one minute to go until the 5 minute closing call. As the team rolled out onto the pre-grid, it was realised that they had screwed up two things. One, there was no tire pressure. Two, the rear wheels had been mounted backwards! Deven sprinted back to the race tent to get the wheel gun, while Dan procured an air gun from a kind competitor. After a mad scramble it looked like everything was in place. 5 minutes later, Deven rolled out of the pre-grid for the formation lap. The last race of the season.
The track was indeed treacherous, almost dry in parts and like driving on black ice in others. There was one spin on the formation lap. Deven didn’t survive the start. He got almost too good a start and got into the back of the kart ahead of him at a slight angle at just the wrong time, and it spun him around as he let off the gas. He never left the track though and got going again quickly enough, but now running dead last. Fortunately for him, the first lap mayhem was far from over. The differing conditions on the track played havoc with everyone, from the front of the pack all the way to the back. It was a game of survival out there. A big pile up occured at the wide entry hairpin that starts sector three of the track, and there came Deven barreling down and past them. In just the one lap that followed, he made up 6 places and was showing much faster pace than those ahead. Finally the team had gotten the setup right for him in that moment, and the engine was giving him all of its potential as well.
The elation was short lived, however. Having almost made his way up to the top 20 on lap 2 it came crashing down on him again. He was catching up to a competitor who then pushed too hard in the same wide entry hairpin at the back side of the track and spun right in front of Deven. It was still slippery there, obviously, and the slightest touch of the brakes to try and avoid the spun kart was enough to send Deven whipping around as well. A travesty for the young racing driver. He got himself going again and powered away, but now it was a matter of being just too far behind. He was now down in 33rd of 36 karts and there was no hope of any salvaging of the race. There were still 9 laps to go but that is just not enough.
Deven never gave up though, and again showed really competitive pace, markedly faster than those around and just ahead of him, and had it been a qualifying session instead, he would have been well inside the top half of the field. He made some very good passing moves during the remaining 8 laps, and made up 5 places, catching up to and latching onto the back of a 10 kart pack as he rounded the final corner on the final lap. Had he had 2 more laps available to him, who knows what may have happened. As it was, it was an anticlimactic end to the 2022 SKCC series, where so much potential was left unrealized and so many opportunities left untaken, most of which was down to the team’s failure to address mechanical issues during key moments.
It has been such a learning experience again for the team. Tasting the sweet success of running at the front all day and being on the podium to the really gut wrenching feeling of dogging it out at the back of the grid all day with no solution as to a way forward. Great drives and racing performances left us wondering when the next race was going to be, and other days wondering what we are even doing on the race track. That is the roller coaster ride that is motorsport and racing.
Grabko GP would like to thank its sponsors and partners, without whom we wouldn’t be able to compete at all:
Improx Customs | Profil #461 | The Techno Creatives | Dumpling X Sweden | Elevate: Bespoke IoT Platforms | Weret: Surf Watches from Sweden
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