Going into the final round of the South Sweden Kart Champions Cup, Deven had a bit of a breather, with no pressure this weekend, he could just focus on performing at his best with no thoughts about championship standings or any other distractions.
With the post-summer run of 3 straight SKCC races being disasters in the Final, all 3 involving crashes not of his own making, 1 of which resulted in a DNF and the others resulting in taking the checkered flag half a lap down on the leaders, there was really nothing to play for coming into the weekend.
This was also the venue of Deven’s first Mini 60 podium at the beginning of the year, in April. It is a long and technical track, a real driver’s circuit with large elevation changes and every kind of corner you can imagine. Slow tight sections, double apexes, long fast sweeping corners, heavy braking zones, etc. You name it, you can probably find it on this track.
And so with positive vibes, it was simply go out and show what you got!
FRIDAY FREE PRACTICE
With all of that said, the weekend started out very well. It was a couple of wet morning sessions to start off the weekend, with the team opting for a completely separate wet chassis and motor setup before moving over to the dry just before lunch and for the remainder of the day.
An extremely productive day unfolded where very strong pace was found and built upon, with Deven not quite topping the estimated times, but being right in the mix with the fastest karts out there. It bode well for the coming race day on Sunday, which was forecast to be dry and sunny all day long.
For the final run, the team opted to try out an alternative setup direction to see if that last bit of ultimate pace could be extracted. Unfortunately this went backwards for the team, and so Deven was left a bit frustrated to end the day, even after such a positive day overall. This is what the free practice days are for, after all!
The team knew the original direction was working well and so there was no problem reverting back to this going into the race day.
What a weekend! It was a hard fought battle from start to finish with barely a chance to surface for air in the cauldron that was the race weekend. From Thursday evening to Saturday night, it was non-stop work to secure a result from all sides in the team, not least our driver, Deven Grabko, who showed clear determination in the face of adversity when things started to go against him.
The event was also a strange and unique format, with two separate racing series on track at the same time, but with separate classifications. The Kart Cup West Series and The Mid-Sweden Kart Racing Series would be sharing the tarmac in all categories with results all together on track for starting grid positions and end results, but completely separate classifications for the respective series’ points and prize givings.
So it was going to be a bit confusing, but it made for a large entrant list and increased the quality of the competition, which is always welcome.
THURSDAY & FRIDAY FREE PRACTICE
Skövde Motorklubb was the host of the 4th Round of the Kart Cup West National Series. The club had ordinary open track testing on Thursday evenings, so the opportunity was taken to get some extra sessions in ahead of official testing on Friday.
Thursday was a very productive evening, with times reaching the low 40 second mark after installation runs were complete.
Friday morning was more of the same still on the testing wagon, but when turning over to race package trim, times fell off a bit, which usually isn’t the case. It was a very interesting development, as normally the race package is significantly faster than the testing equipment.
Upon reflection after the weekend was over we think we have identified the cause. And it was rubber. In the moment though, the chassis setup was looked into and trying to find pace there was the focus. Improvements were found but there seemed to be a wall Deven was hitting that hadn’t been there on Thursday or the first session on Friday.
New tires were thrown on and didn’t make much of a difference at all, and only one run was achieved on them as well, because due to the large amount of classes and the limited time of the Friday testing, only 5 sessions were able to be fit in for the day.
The plan was to run another set of new tires to see what would happen in the final testing session before qualifying and scan in tires only directly before that session.
Coming off the back of your first win puts wind in your sails, and gives you a self confidence boost that allows you to relax and focus on the task at hand…
And that is how the weekend began for Deven, in any case. How it ended was another story altogether…
THURSDAY/FRIDAY FREE PRACTICE
In the evening sessions on Thursday it was all about chassis setup and preparation for the longer free practice sessions on Friday. Feeling very good about where the pace was, the team was relaxed and ready to go at it on Friday.
Friday started where Thursday left off - at the front of the field. Running in the 47.6 to 47.7 second range through the first three sessions, Deven was right on pace with the fastest in the field again, maybe missing a tenth or two here or there on ultimate pace, but very solid and consistent average pace, so everyone was feeling very optimistic about the race day on Sunday.
SUNDAY RACE DAY
Warm Up Practice | 10min | P12 (Group) P23 Overall Yes it was just warm up. But where had the pace gone? The track was visibly different on Sunday, the Saturday races having laid down a thick layer of rubber all around the track, and as a result, all the pace we had shown in free practice had gone up in Smoke.
Deven’s summer break growth spurt was the culprit. With only a couple of kilos left on the kart and pushing 160cm in height, compared to the start of the season with 9 kilos to give and 150cm tall, it was this heavy grip situation that Deven could not overcome no matter how well he drove.
The team did everything in their power to loosen up the rear end before qualifying, but it was going to be an uphill battle.
Qualifying | 8min | P13 (Group) P26 Overall Despite frantic changes to the setup, it was only going to get tougher for the poor kid. The motor package had also shown some gremlins, running extremely hot, so this was addressed after the warmup as well. Fighting ridiculous understeer as the rear just refused to rotate into the corner and then squatted down on exit, killing the motor, there was very little Deven could do to combat his situation.
By sheer force of will, he managed to improve by just over two tenths from the warm up, but was still over a half second off his free practice days pace, so instead of fighting for the front row, he was trying to scrape out a top 20 instead…but when the checkered flag was taken he found himself P13 in his group, meaning a P26 overall ranking. It was never going to be a good day starting P26 on this track through the heats.
🍾🥇🏆Deven Grabko Takes Maiden Mini 60 Gr3 Victory in Sviestad🏆🥇🍾
There is something about letting your guard down that can release tension and let you perform at your best. Our driver Deven has shown his potential and quality on many occasions during his debut season in international category racing.
But something has always prevented him from realizing that potential. Whether it has been a technical issue, a mechanical problem, an unavoidable crash, or simply a brief mental or physical lapse at a key moment, the full realization of that potential has eluded him.
But this weekend, it would be a new chapter. This weekend, there was something just a bit different in the kid’s body language. A more relaxed focus. The tension gone from his face and shoulders.
FRIDAY FREE PRACTICE
It was a brand new track he had never seen before, and he had no expectations for himself. In fact, given the late withdrawal of The Swedish Kart League from the event only 3 days from the free practice sessions, this weekend was more about showing his ability to learn a new track quickly and be able to get on pace with the front runners by race day than anything else.
This he was able to do with aplomb. In the heavy wet conditions, the first sessions were all about learning the track. Already by the end of the very first session, Deven was setting midfield times where you could see there was a lot of time to gain just by going through the track map and data one time. He proactively sought this out from anyone available in the AD Motorsport team tent and his initiative was noticed.
As the day progressed, he had more and more mechanics and coaches engaged in his sessions and helping him with various aspects of the track and the kart setup. By the end of the day he had most of the team behind him, checking on the day’s development, and it paid off in spades. The last couple of sessions of the day he was fastest on track. It wasn’t the first time he had been fastest on a free practice day. That had happened plenty of times before. But could he convert it to race day pace was the question.
It had been an excellent preparation day, despite the extreme wet conditions, and bode well for the race day tomorrow, even though the forecast was for dry, sunny and warm race conditions, a stark contrast from the day’s running. After driver debriefing in the tent, and race chassis setup, scrutineering, and registration, it was all prepared for an exciting race day - but nobody could have foreseen what the fledgling talent had in store for us the next day.
SATURDAY RACE DAY
Warm Up Practice | 7min x2 | P6 & P1 The track conditions had changed dramatically overnight, from standing water and massive spray trails to just spotty wet patches left on the track. It was another one of those tire judgement calls - would it be better to go out on slicks or to use a worn set of rain tires? Given the sun being out and a decent wind, it was decided that used slicks was the way to go. This proved to be the correct call, as the track switched over from wet to dry tires being fastest with about 2 laps of the session to go, rain tire runners dominating the time sheets until the very last minutes of the session.
Grabko GP is a grass roots race team whose main focus is on amateur and young driver development, from first forays into karting, through amateur racing series, with the aim of one day culminating in the minor formulas and beyond. The team aims to promote participation in and love for motorsport while enabling the development of elite racing drivers.