Our man Deven was coming off his best result of the season and the whole team were hoping to keep that momentum through to a stronger finish to the SKCC finale. But again, as has been the case most of the season, there was no prior experience at the track for team or driver, so everything would have to be learned on the fly, with only 2 free practice sessions to try to dial in the driving and setup before qualifying.
The first FP session went as expected, sitting near the back of the 29 kart field, getting a feel for the track. Things were more worrying on the chassis setup side than the driving side at this point. There was an audible difference as the karts came flying through the fast right handed turn 1. The Grabko GP machine was struggling to hold revs under the load, while karts further up the field had more freely revving motors.
Notes were taken, consultations made, and in between sessions, the necessary chassis and gearing adjustments were made to free up the load coming through the corners. This made a good difference and with the kart in better working order for the track, it was now all focus on the driving.
After FP2, it was race engineer and driver going through the data, finding as much as they could to work on in preparation for qualifying. Given the circumstances, it was a decent result. The team would qualify in 23rd after all was said and done, the best qualifying positions achieved in this championship for the feisty little rookie this season.
However, the race heats are a completely different animal, and with 29 karts lining up on the grid, full commitment is required. It was clear directly from the start of the first sprint heat that Deven still hadn’t quite ridden himself of the demons conjured up in the previous rounds at Malmö and Klippan. His start was best described as gun shy. Far too passively he tiptoed his way through the start, allowing those around him to take advantage, and after the first half lap he found himself running 3rd from the back. He then proceeded to run a fairly pedestrian race, showing clearly that he had more pace than those around him, but not willing to commit to any passing moves to continue on up the field.
It was time for the Team Principal to step in. Taking the young rookie off to the side to visit the Formula Nordic racing machine on display at the track , we don’t know what was said or how, but when the pair returned, there was a renewed glint of determination on the steely little face of a young racer again. We will probably never know what was said or how, but what we do know is that whatever it was, it worked.
Having put ourselves in the position we did going into the final it was always going to be hard to rectify it. Starting 27th is no easy task to drive yourself up from, especially on a track where the start is not going into a hard braking zone to allow for a lot of passing.
Nevertheless, it was a night and day performance. Right from the start it was clear that the Kid was going to race and not just drive around the track. He got off the line and fought for positions, jostling his way through the pack and making up 2 positions on the start right away, but then getting unlucky to have to make evasive maneuvers to avoid a spin the sharp left handed turn 4, and losing out one position again due to that.
Taking tighter and more aggressive lines at corner entry, he was immediately well over a half second faster than his previous best times, and was bearing down on the kart ahead. Now within a second of the front runner’s times, he showed what he could do with the equipment he has underneath him.
Unfortunately, to his frustration, even though he was able to catch up to the #23 ahead of him quite easily, it was much tougher to get by. This time, though, his inability to make the pass wasn’t due to lack of trying. Lap after lap he just couldn’t get the exit out of the key corners 6 and 12 leading up to the long back and front straights to make a pass stick in the braking zones, and thus it was that a frustrating race ensued, and showed just what could have been had we had heads right from the start of the day.
Crossing the line in 26th in the final was another step sideways instead of forward, and was a somewhat disappointing way to end the 2021 SKCC Series given the form we shown coming into the weekend.
Chief Race Engineer, Dan Grabko, told it like is was. “More than half of motor racing is psychological, and if you don’t have your head right, you’re not going to get anywhere. We had a weekend where we came to grips with the mechanical setup quite quickly, but the driver mental setup was a tougher nut to crack. We finally did that, but the damage had been done. All credit to Big D for salvaging what he could in the Feature, but the incremental moving up the grid needed to happen in qualifying and the sprint races, not the Final. There was more in the car and the driver today than what we showed, and that is the disappointing thing. Fair enough if you give it your all and come up short, but when you know for fact that you have left performance on the table, then it is just a bit draining. Based on the data, a top 20 finish was well within our grasp today and we didn’t go out there and take it.”
With the final rounds now coming for the KCV Series as well, it is well and truly a wrap to the season soon, and preparation for the 2022 Championships are already well underway. Coming up next on the race calendar is Round 3 of the KCV back in Gothenburg, and then Round 4 the weekend after that, in Skövde. Due to prior commitments the team will not be able to enter the final round in Lidköping.
Thank you for all your support, every like, follow, and message of encouragement are truly appreciated by the entire team!
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Deven charged him down though and by lap 3 of 14 he was breathing down his neck, and it was bumper to bumper racing for the final podium spot for 10 laps. To say it was nail biting for the team looking on would be one of the understatements of the season. It was an intense period that seemed to last forever. Lap after lap Deven showed the consistency and focus needed to fight for a top place. At one point, lap 7 or 8, he managed to get a better exit from the fast turn one and got up almost alongside for the pass into turn 2 but couldn’t quite beat his man to the apex, and did the smart thing and §§didn’t dive in recklessly. At the same turn 1 the next lap, he was caught out by the slower exit of the #82 and bumped him from behind. This produced a warning from the stewards, but lucking there was no front fairing and the intense fight continued.
Meanwhile the pacy #96, who had gotten a less successful start to the race, had made their way clear of traffic and was also now bearing down on the two ahead, also putting in their claim for the final podium spot. Suddenly it was a 3 kart race for 3rd, all bumper to bumper racing, and all very nerve wracking.
Credit to the drivers, they raced hard and raced well, and in the end when they crossed the line, it was the #82 who just held on to 3rd spot. Our man Deven came home 4th, his best ever result, and even though in the moment tears were shed in frustration at being so close to glory, yet so far away, it was a real injection of positive energy that has been injected into the team with this result.
The Team Principal had this to say, “Finally! That’s what I have to say - The Kid showed he can do it on his day with the right equipment and setup under him. All credit to him and to the team for putting in a solid, focused, and measure performance throughout. I’m so proud of everyone involved, especially Deven, as he showed the determination, skill and maturity to go the distance today. He’s going to sleep well tonight I’ll wager. We’ve been waiting for this kind of end result to our toils for a very long time. We started slowly this morning in FP1 but didn’t panic, just methodically went through our paces and worked our way forward all day. Awesome drives by big D in the 2nd sprint and the Final. Nail biting to watch, but so exciting to be up there fighting, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Deven was buoyant by the time the driver interviews came around, “4th place, baby! Love it. Should have had 3rd, but this is so cool as well, can’t wait to go again!”
And go again GrabkoGP shall, as in a week’s time it is the final round of the SKCC, this time in Helsingborg.
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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!