🍾🥇🏆Deven Grabko Takes Maiden Mini 60 Gr3 Victory in Sviestad🏆🥇🍾
Deven had never run a session in dry conditions and so these semi-dry conditions were a good evolution for him from the previous free practice day. He never really pushed, but was still able to put in a time good enough for P6 in a kind of unrepresentative session, that truly was more of a warm-up than anything else.
In the 2nd warm up, though, there was a program to follow and he would need to push and simulate qualifying. Strategy this week, based on the limited data gathered and given the fast changing track conditions, was to prepare the race tire with a full heat cycle, instead of running them brand new for the timed qualifying.
The track was in much better shape, almost so it would be similar to qualifying conditions, as it was completely dry by now, the sun and wind, as well as other categories driving evaporating away the last remnants of wet. Now the only difference would be the grip put down by those other categories between now and qualifying.
Deven was a rocket ship, P2 or P1 every lap, and it looked like it was going to be a shootout between him and his fellow west coast racer, Eric Bondarov-Naperotti for pole position. In the end they had both set the exact same time to the thousandth of a second, and were clear of the rest of the field by one and half tenths. It was looking good, but he would also have to execute in qualifying.
Qualifying | 7min | P1 (Group) Pole Position (Overall)
Boy did he execute. Everything went perfectly, but for a little miscommunication at the start, where he and Naperotti came together in the pre-grid trying to get out for the session. In a comedy of errors, the two drivers got confused first about when to go, as the gate opened and the race stewart was half waving his green flag with one hand and with the other signalling everyone to wait for the gate to be opened fully. But after that little hiccup, it was perfection.
The karts were properly separated into two groups, and The Kid was assigned to Group 1, so would be first to drive. Deven went out in great track position together with Naperotti, and was able to use him down the front straight as well. Lap 1 - P1. Lap 2 - P3. Lap 3 - P2. Lap 4 - P1. From there he never looked back. On laps 5 and 6 the tires peaked, putting in 2 laps that both would have been good enough for pole, but lap 6 was a bit special, and he was the only driver to break the 48 second barrier in both qualifying groups.
Laps 7 and 8 saw traffic he had to get by, but he had already done enough with blistering pace that saw him claim P1 in his qualifying group and the overall Pole Position after the Group 2 driver could find no answer to Deven’s speed today.
Landmark achievement for the up and coming talent, to score his first pole position, and it was a signal of intent for the rest of the day. He was ecstatic about the result, a confirmation to himself that he was one of the best drivers out there in the category and could hang it on pure pace with anyone.
Qualifying Heat 1 | 8 Laps | P1 → P1
Now it was time for Deven to perform his first ever pole position formation lap in an international karting category. We have seen throughout the season that this has been a stumbling block for many inexperienced front runners this year, but Deven handled it as though he had been doing it all season long.
There was an extra formation lap called for, however. Not due to Deven losing control of his pace, but rather the back of the field not being close enough due to some shenanigans in the pregrid.
When they were finally ready to go on the second formation lap, Deven made an excellent start, easily keeping his well earned P1 position through the first corners. The ever present Alex Stasiak pipped Naperotti at the start and claimed 2nd position, and he would be the main protagonist for the heat win along with Deven. They gapped the field in short order, pulling out a nearly 1 second lead together, with Deven leading the way for 5 laps before the experienced and quick Stasiak made his move at the turn 3 hairpin. The #127 Formula K driver sent a dive bomb down the inside of Deven, who was not expecting it, and made it through, cementing the move at the exit of the corner as Deven was forced wide in order to keep his momentum.
It was a smart overtaking spot. It made Deven lose out into the chicane at turns 4, 5, and 6 as well, Stasiak able to build a 3 tenth gap immediately while Deven regained his composure. He did just that and wasn’t giving away his first heat win without a fight. Stasiak could not pull away and the last two laps of the 8 lap sprint saw Deven gain a tenth back each lap, but unfortunately was not able to get close enough to return the favor with a divebomb of his own.
However, post race penalties assessed a 3s false start to Stasiak for leaving his corridor too early, now giving light to how Stasiak was able to get into P2 right at the start. It was a reprieve for our man, and he would claim his first heat win after all, by nearly 8 tenths of a second in the very tight and competitive field.
Qualifying Heat 2 | 8 Laps | P1 → P2
Now with a pole position and a heat win under his belt, everything would just get easier for The Kid, right? Not on your life. Not in this series, and not with these drivers. The pace was increasing everywhere and if you didn’t keep going faster you would fall back in the field faster than you think.
Again, Deven led the pack out of the pregrid and through the formation lap. First time of asking went green on this occasion and Deven shot out like a lightning bolt, again executing a good clean start and getting the whole shot on his friend and rival, Eric, who was sharing the front row of the grid with him.
This time, with a clean start through the field, the cream of the crop rose to the surface. It was a four kart battle for the win in an 8 lap sprint to the finish line. Grabko, Naperotti, Stasiak, and IAME Series Champion and Swedish Kart League series leader, Ludwig Granquist, flew away from the rest of the field in their own mini race for the heat victory. Deven led the entire race going into the final laps. It was classic international karting. All 4 karts held station and waited for the last two laps before going on all out attack.
Naperotti had gotten a good view of Stasiak’s pass on Deven in the first heat and on lap 8 he made a carbon copy move on Deven, who again seemed to be caught off guard, leaving the door open at turn 3 for Eric to dive down into. This time, though, Deven managed a better exit from the corner and was able to defend and consolidate 2nd place, and focus on trying to hunt the Team 13 driver back down for the rest of the lap.
Unfortunately he wasn’t able to get a run on the final corner, and would have to settle for P2. But what a race day so far. Pole Position, Heat win and 2nd in the other heat. The results would mean a P1 start for the Pre-Final. No Super Heat here, the Pre-Final was all or nothing for the Feature Final starting grid.
Pre-Final | 10 Laps | P1 → P4
And here, the pressure gets greater - with no Super Heat format, everyone is gunning for it to secure their place in the final. Deven, for his part, did everything according to his pre-race plan. Everyone else went psycho. 2 false start penalties were assessed post race, as well as 4 front fairing penalties all within the top ten as it was no-holds-barred cutthroat racing from the get go. Knives were definitely out.
Through turn one Deven got dived down on by Naperotti on the inside, who just didn’t brake at all into the corner, and so Deven had to let off slightly, which allowed Granquist to also get on the inside. Naperotti’s aggression menat he went too deep into the corner and Deven was able to get under him on the exit. They all then emerged out of turn one in a three wide kart sandwich all racing to be first to the apex of the left handed turn 3 hairpin, and Deven was in the middle. It was a game of chicken, and if any contact was made, it would be Deven who would lose out, being caught in between the two other karts. But he won the game of daring, smashing his foot on the gas and refusing to let off until the other two did.
He somehow emerged out front going into the chicane section for the first time, but Granquist was right on his rear bumper and at turn 9 he went down the inside of Deven and took over the lead. In a foreshadowing of the final to come, Deven set about chasing down the IAME champion, and was already closing in as they crossed the finish line to end the first lap.
But he was also being attacked from behind! He was forced to go defensive on lap 3, having learned his lesson in the previous two heats about opening up in tight racing at this corner, but this allowed Granquist to gap slightly. But The Kid was able to keep his momentum through the defensive line and was pushing up to Granquist through the middle sector of the lap again, having shrugged off challenges from behind for the moment.
On lap 4 he again went defensive at turn 3. Again Granquist was able to pull out a tenth or two because of it. On lap 5 he felt he had enough room to not defend at turn 3, and he was correct, but now pushed a little bit too hard through the first part of the chicane, causing him to have to turn too much on the exit, and slowing him ever so slightly, giving Stasiak behind an opportunity at turn 7 that he would not need a second invitation to take. He was through on the inside of the corner. Desperate to hit back immediately as he got a good run on Stasiak going through the super fast turn 8, Deven made the only judgemental mistake of his afternoon, but it was a costly one.
Instead of following Stasiak through the corner and taking him at turn 9, a much better overtaking spot, Deven made a half move at turn 8 itself. Stasiak didn’t back down and Deven had to get out of the move late, and ended up getting up on top of his back bumper.
Letting off to get back down, he had destroyed his momentum, with no margin for error behind him. He was all out of shape going into turn 9 and had to crank the wheel to go around the inside to avoid the other karts coming from behind. With no speed out of the corner, Naperotti came through at turn 11, losing Deven even more momentum, the #121 of Gustav Roininen and #115 of Devin Lundbrink getting him as well. And the nightmare wasn’t over there! He was stuck far too inside at the turn 12 and 13 combo and got sucker punched by the #51 of Elias Johansson Åkerlund as well.
Going down the start finish to end the disaster than had been lap 5, he was now P7. There was nothing to do now but do as much damage control as possible. Had he just thrown away his entire race weekend in the blink of an eye?
Thoughts for after the race, now he needed to somehow recenter himself and do what he could to salvage whatever there was to salvage from this race. He still had half the race left. But it was not easy. This was a very competitive field, and there was noone slow ahead of him. No easy pickings.
It took all of lap 6 for him to reconnect with the 4 kart group ahead so now he was on lap 7 of 10 when he could go racing again. Visibly stressed in his driving style, he was catching the karts ahead at the wrong spots and falling back into old bad habits, losing out on the exits of the corners and thus not being close enough to outbrake them on the entries to the next corners. Laps 7 , 8, and 9 went by with him yo-yoing back and forth to Lundbrink ahead. You could see he was unsettled and have real trouble getting back into his groove.
On the final lap he started driving as we knew he could again, and he made a smart and clean pass at turn 9 on Lundrink to go back to P6. Not enough time left to make any further spots before the checkered flag came out, the little racer thought he had botched it.
But, remember the hectic start where nobody had seemed to be able to keep their cool? Well. The two false start penalties and two front fairing penalties ahead of him resulted in Deven being promoted from P6 to P4. Perhaps all was not lost.
Final | 14 Laps | P4 → P1 🏆🥇🍾VICTORY🍾🥇🏆
But Deven was still inconsolable. He was gutted, and felt there was no way for him to claim his first win from the outside of the 2nd row of the grid. He was convinced that he had bottled the whole thing and that he would just lose positions at the start, and end up fighting it out at the lower half of the top 10 like he had found himself doing in Gothenburg the week previous.
There was very little team and coaches could do besides tell him they believed in him, show him that he had been driving the 2nd or 3rd fastest laps of all the races and that his average pace had been fastest all day long. It was a long race and if you drive calm, relaxed, and confident, the race will come to you. You have to believe it.
It was very hard to tell whether or not he did. All we know is that he went out there and completely smashed it. He got an amazing and clean start from the outside, sliding in underneath Roininen, who had lined up 2nd on the grid, and slotting in smoothly behind Granquist in 2nd and Naperotti who had made a good clean start from his 1st place grid position.
P3 after the first lap, and he was just getting started. On lap 2, Granquist made a move down the inside at turn 6 to take the lead from Naperotti, and Deven was almost able to follow through immediately, but given what had happened in the Pre-Final, he thought better of it and pulled out before it was too late at this corner, and instead did exactly what he should have done in the Pre-Final and wait. This he did, getting a very good run on Eric out of turn 9 instead and expertly and cleanly taking him under braking at turn 11. P2 with 12 laps to go.
The hunt was on for P1. Deven could feel he had the pace to do it. He was closing in on every corner, and was driving excellently. But this was a driver ahead used to winning races, and it wasn’t going to be easy. Just the way your first win should be, Granquist is a wily racer and knows where and how to bait others into mistakes.
But Deven wasn’t having any of it. He had a plan and stuck to it. He patiently waited for 3 laps behind Granquist, and then got a good run on him out of the final corner. Ludwig signaled for them to work together, but Deven wasn’t having any of it. He sailed up alongside on the inside and passed relatively easily under braking. P1. 9 laps to go.
It is always easier to chase than to lead, and Granquist knew he would have his chance before it was over. But Deven was quick, and Granquist could feel it. He couldn’t wait too long, otherwise Deven would pull a gap that he wouldn’t be able to overcome. So he dove down hard on Deven on lap 8 at turn 9, and retook the lead.
It was a huge lunge that had taken Deven by surprise. He didn’t think Ludwig had been close enough to do it. Filing the information in the back of his brain, Deven didn’t panic this time. He showed a tactical patience that had been rare to show itself until this weekend. Instead of going on all out attack in panic mode to gain back the lead, he knew where he wanted to retake the lead, and it was on the start/finish straight.
Again getting a great run off turn 14, Deven was alongside almost before they got to the actual straight. Again Granquist signaled for teamwork, but Deven would not be swayed. This time he sailed by the Falcon driver before they even got to the braking zone, and from here it was a masterclass in race management from Deven, who looked like he had been winning races all his life during the final stint.
Managing a couple of tenths lead is not easy against an experienced and super fast opponent. And Granquist made Deven work for it. On Lap 10, the Falcon driver made a last bid to stay in contention, but Deven had learned his lesson. Again Granquist tried to lunge down the indie at turn 9, but Deven had predicted this and covered just a quarter of a kart width narrower to deny him the space for the late move. Instead Granquist then got ever so slightly into the back of Deven rear bumper on the left hand side and lost crucial momentum, transferring his too fast entry speed into Deven, who got a boost through the apex while Granquist was compromised.
Deven shot off like a lightning bolt. All of the sudden he had an over half second lead, and Naperotti now had the taste of blood in his mouth as well, closing up on Granquist in the process. Ludwig would now have to focus behind him to not lose 2nd rather than attack Deven and our man took full advantage.
From lap 11 he gapped the 2nd and 3rd placed karts by a tenth each lap, and when the lap counter showed 3 laps to go he started to believe it was going to happen. When the final lap indicator was shown as he crossed the start/finish line to end lap 13, he had over 7 tenths on the trailing pack. He glanced back and knew he had already done enough. In the post race debrief, he told the team he broke a little bit earlier everywhere on that last lap to play it safe, but the date showed he did his 3rd fastest time of the race on the last lap!
As the checkered flag came out and he crossed the line he finally knew it to be true. He had done it. Victory #1 at the highest level of mini category karting. What a feeling!
An amazing weekend in which Deven proved both to the rest of the grid and to himself, something that his team, mechanics, management, and coaches all already knew. He was one of the top mini drivers in the country, and he proved it today, now being able to call himself a race winner as well. And it was the manner of the win that was most satisfying for the whole team and organization around him. He had done it on pure merit, against quality opposition, with no extenuating circumstances, no penalties ahead of him to elevate him to the top step of the podium, and nothing anybody could point at to devalue what was a stirling performance all weekend. A deserving winner. Period.
You know how it is as a father - you of course tear up with pride when you see your kid succeed like this and the pure raw joy, happiness, and satisfaction you can see twinkling in his eyes. Extremely proud of him this weekend and the manner in which he did it as well. A track he has never seen before, and never driven even a single dry session on before this morning. A strong field full of the best MKR Series drivers on offer, as well as internationally experienced race winners. He wins on pure merit, no penalties or any other mitigating circumstances to give him the win. He just fully earned and deserved it, and showed everyone out there that he is to be taken seriously as a talented top driver. Really hope this can give him the self confidence he has been lacking slightly to push on for the final run in of the season. Some important races left for him.”
Grabko GP would like to extend a special thank you to our sponsors, without whose support and trust, this journey would not be possible.
Brunbergs | Trollhättans Oljor | Chassis Autonomy | The Grabko Group
Until next time, thank you all for the support!
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