SUNDAY RACE DAY
As forecast, the sun was out and the track was dry in the morning. It was perfect conditions for racing, even if in reality, the team had seriously been praying for a wet race day, where they knew Deven had the measure of the field and the kart setup that was working to match. But that wasn’t meant to be and instead we had to set about trying to solve our issues during the warm-up session before the timed qualifying.
Warm Up | 7min | P11
The warm up session confirmed the worries of the previous evening. The kart was so loose in the back, Deven could not commit to pushing, he had to carry less speed at important corners on the track and was also not getting the exits as the rear of the kart was nervous through the apex. It ended up being a disappointing P11 while his championship rivals were in the top 5 of the field. It was a worrying development and major changes were needed to bring us back up the field.
Qualifying | 7min | P9
It was frantic action in the Grabko GP and AD Motorsport paddock as the kart was essentially taken apart and put back together again between the warm up and the qualifying session. Essentially completely changed to a whole different setup philosophy, Deven went out onto the track not knowing what to expect.
The good news was that the setup seemed to be working much better. The kart looked much more settled both on entry and exit, and it was visibly faster, carrying much more speed through the corners, and sitting down on exit, allowing Deven to put the power down.
The bad news was that Deven had landed in what would prove to be a very unfortunate track position. The position itself was fine, he was tucked in behind a driver who had been quicker during the warm up session. But now Deven was quicker. However, this driver didn’t seem to understand he was in a qualifying session and not the final stages of a feature final.
Deven made several attempts at overtakes only to be blocked by ultra defensive driving, which you normally don’t expect during a qualifying session. Usually you see drivers trying to take advantage of those quicker by letting them through and then attempting to get a draft or follow them through the next flying lap to improve their own qualifying results.
In this case however, it seemed this driver was more intent on destroying Deven’s qualifying session than making the best of his own. After 3 laps and time running out, Deven finally made a late aggressive move and made his way past the offending driver, and he would still have time for one really good push lap to end the session.
But then the unbelievable happened. Because Deven had made a late move, his exit was compromised a bit - normally it wouldn’t be a big deal, the lap time was already compromised due to the overtake manouver. He would have his flying lap to push. But as his exit was compromised, this driver who thought he was racing for his life did the dumbest thing imaginable during the final minutes of a qualifying session. He dove back down on Deven and retook the track position.
Deven couldn’t believe it and was beside himself with anger and frustration. This was not an easy track to overtake on and there were no other opportunities until the next lap. As it was there would be no more flying laps. Deven was stuck and didn’t get to show his true pace. He ended up qualifying 9th, and only 2 tenths would have seen him in the top 5, where he needed to be in order to fight for the championship.
Now he was in the back end of the top 10 where anything could and would happen in the starts at this tight track, as we unfortunately would experience throughout the rest of the day.
Qualifying Heat 1 | 10 Laps | P9→P11
The first heat really was the moment we felt that this day really might not go our way, as the Kart Cup West championship hopes started to fade. Deven made a solid start to the race, coming through the first two corners using the inside line to good effect, and moving up to P8. But then came the second hairpin at turn 3.
The driver behind misjudged their braking point, probably. In any case he came into the back of Deven just as he was turning into the corner, and that was that. Deven was sideways and the disruption also killed his engine. In the mere moments it took him to right himself and get moving again he was 14th and several seconds back from the pack.
Now it was full recovery mode. Despite the sinking feeling in his stomach, The Kid pushed on and did his best in a desperate recovery drive to make it back up as far as he could to save something from the race. After a few laps he had made up a couple of positions and all of a sudden, he saw Hugo Eklund going slowly at the downhill 180° turn 6 - he had out broken himself from 3rd and spun!
It was one of very few things that went our way during the race weekend. Now in tenth spot, there were only a few laps left of the race. Hugo was a few tenths quicker on pace and he caught Deven before the both of them could catch the remaining pack, and their fighting over tenth spot would hamper their progress forward. In the end, Eklund won out for P10 and Deven finished P11. Frykberg would get a 10s false start penalty for leaving his lane completely before the start, and so ended up P12. If that had been the final, Eric Bondarov-Naperotti would have won the championship, with Eklund 2nd and Deven 3rd. But it was not the final…
Qualifying Heat 2 | 10 Laps | P9→P13
Well, you would think things couldn’t have gone much worse than that first heat for Deven’s prospects, could they? Surely this would be where Deven gets a solid heat result to set things up for an exciting final to decide the series? Well, you would be wrong. Things went worse.
Again the start began fine. Deven held position and was turning into the first hairpin at turn 2 when he got another nudge in the back and had to brake hard to not be thrown out into the marbles. Unfortunately his engine again decided to die on him due to the manouver, and again he found himself in 14th and adrift of the leading pack, this time by a larger margin as it took him longer to get going again this time.
It was a sad state of affairs, watching as all hopes of even a podium finish in the series total were slipping away. You could almost feel the frustration, seeing that Deven was driving angrily, the aggression with which he was throwing the kart through the corners. You could imagine the tears running down his face as he raced frantically around the track, hoping something would happen to bring him back into the mix. In the end he was only able to make up one position during the otherwise relatively uneventful race, and ended in P13. It meant a P11 start for the Final.
Anything could still happen, but it was going to be a real uphill battle to get anything from the race, and finishing ahead of his rivals, who would be starting the final P2 (Naperotti), P5 (Eklund) and P9 (Frykberg), would be a very tall order.
Final | 14 Laps | P12→P7
In the end it was a much better race, and Deven gave it his best effort, just not quite enough in the end as a disappointing weekend came to its climax.
Starting on the outside of the grid seemed like a blessing in disguise, the strategy being to stick it to the outside through the first two corners to be on the inside at the 2nd hairpin at turn 3, all the while avoiding the rush for the inside line at turn 2.
The strategy worked, letting all the others fight for the inside line and sailing around the outside, gave us a good, clear start and already up two places going up the hill at turn 5 for the first time.
From there is was a measured march forward, desperate at times, but never uncontrolled. Deven needed to make up places and he knew it, but just how many he needed to make up depended on the results ahead of him for the podium places.
Unless something totally catastrophic and unexpected happened ahead in that fight, Deven’s hopes of securing the Kart Cup West Championship were already dashed. In order to put himself on the podium, he needed help and a good result.
On lap 4 he was up to 8th place and fighting a familiar competitor in Jack Salomonsson for P7. It was a good battle, Deven had the edge in pace, but he needed to make it through as well. He did so with a good draft up the hill and then a classic outbraking manouver into the sharp downhill and off camber turn 7. The next kart ahead was the 132 of Kevin Gharib, who had a bit over a second margin ahead.
Meanwhile, up ahead, it was Naperotti and Karassas fighting over P2, with Eklund just behind in P4 and Frykberg in P5. As it stood now, Deven would be tied on points with Naperotti for P3 in the championship, but would lose out on tiebreaking criteria and be P4. He needed to finish P6 or higher to make the podium.
Even though Deven didn’t know this at the time, it was critical to chase down Gharib and take home P6, ensuring a podium spot, as Ludwig Granquist, the fast PDB Racing driver, looked to have the victory well in hand, leading by a strong margin at this midpoint of the race.
Deven was making headway as well, but Jack also was able to up his tempo once Deven got by and was not letting go of Deven. It was a tough situation as Deven was desperately fighting to get up to Gharib while also now having to defend his current position.
What a situation and what a knife edge the race was balancing on. When it tipped one way or the other, it all got away from us. Jack thought he saw an opportunity at turn ten that wasn’t actually there. He made contact with Deven and climbed up the back of his kart, and slowed them both down - Jack sliding off and ruining his own race, and slowing Deven down considerably.
When he got back up to full speed, the pack behind him had caught him back up, and crucially, Kevin had made an escape well up the track ahead, now several seconds ahead of Deven, who found himself now defending for P7 in a compromised machine that didn’t quite have the same pace as before the incident.
P6 vanished before his eyes, and the pain and frustration was evident in his driving. He just managed to fend off all the challenges for P7, but events ahead meant it wasn’t enough.
Naperotti did indeed finish 2nd, and with that result finished equal on points with Deven. There was a moment of hope when Karassas drove into the weigh station after the race, and had a 5 second penalty. But due to the contact with Jack, he was less than a second from moving up one place due to the penalty. It seemed nothing was going to go our way.
A seriously disappointing end to an epic 2023 campaign in which Deven had 9 top 10 finishes, 4 podiums, and his first international category race win. Many moments to look back on and say that if things had gone differently, this championship would have already been wrapped up before the weekend even started. The piston ring failure in Uddevalla and the qualifying mistake in Lidköping especially stand out as moments where had he finished on the podium in those races where he had the pace to fight for the win, the championship would have already been won.
But almost all the top racers can have said the same thing about their seasons, and in the end, that is motorsport. Big congratulations to Hugo Eklund on the championship, and to teammate Alexander Frykberg on taking home the 2nd place spot, as well as Eric Bondarov-Naperotti, who just snatched home that 3rd place from Deven with his well earned 2nd place in this final round.
Dude, what a disaster, almost everything went wrong for us today and despite that I still had a slim chance in the Final to make things right enough to come away with a podium in the championship, and I feel like I did everything right in that race - it just wasn’t meant to be. It's really sad because I don’t feel the result shows how far I’ve come this season. I’ve loved almost every minute of it this year though, and want to thank everyone - my sponsors, AD Motorsport, Hugo and Max, my mechanics, my family, all my fellow racers, it has been so cool to be up there competing at the front almost all season, and I can’t wait to continue this upward trajectory next year. I hope everyone continues to follow my progress, I really appreciate all the support, it has been amazing!”
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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