Returning to the track where the Mini Gr3 adventure all began, with a solid P13 debut in his new class against an international field of seasoned drivers in the category, it was now time to see how much difference a half season could make in driver development for the ambitious young talent.
The short answer is - pace and competitiveness is on another level. The end result... not so much! The young AD Motorsport driver can’t seem to catch a break in the South Sweden Kart Champions Cup series, and unfortunately, that run would continue for the 5th round of this championship as well.
FRIDAY: FREE PRACTICE
The race weekend started off very well, with Deven showing glimpses of genuine pace, within one or two tenths of the fastest times during the morning sessions before the track started to really grip up, and looking like a contender for a top position in this extremely strong international field.
The weather was cooperating as well, with the danger of rain hanging over the track, it never seemed to materialise, and it was a completely dry free practice day. The afternoon sessions began with a few setbacks as carburetor setting gremlins started to pop up, just as new tire testing was meant to begin, and thus was wasted. However, these were pretty much resolved for the last few sessions of the day, and the pace seemed to be there. Only needed to find those last 1-2 tenths to be right there amongst the very top.
After a long hard day of practice it was good to get back to the hotel and get some rest, and be able to recharge the batteries on the off day on Saturday, which was spent among the trees at the Upzone climbing adventure park in Ängelholm, Sweden.
SUNDAY: RACE DAY
The races on Saturday had been welcomed by hot, sunny and humid weather, with no worries of rain or wet racing. The forecast had been for rain to come through during the night, but be done and dusted well before the first sessions of the Sunday category warm ups.
Free Practice Warm Up | 10min | P14 Group B (Wet on Slicks) This was how it began, with a drying track going into the first session. In reality it was still a bit too wet to go out on slicks, but based on the practice data on Friday, it was optimal to run in this series of race tires for a run before using them in qualifying. Only a few of the front runners did this in Group A, and Deven was the only man out on slicks in Group B.
Back to the West of Sweden for the Kart Cup West National Series for race 2 of 9 in a row for our determined young driver. The signs have been bubbling up since the National Championship weekend in July that Deven was really close to a turning point and having a breakthrough weekend. The pace is continuing to improve, especially average race pace and consistency.
Now on to a track that Deven really enjoys, even if he doesn’t get out to drive on it very often with the hectic race schedule during the season, the Lidköping Motorpark National Karting Circuit is always a joy to race at. The beautiful figure of eight track has facilities to match, with an expansive paddock area, top notch mechanic and public grandstands, and a modern race control tower. Also an anti-clockwise configuration, so all just that little bit more special.
The Kart Cup West format is practice on Saturday afternoon, with qualifying, heats and final all on Sunday, so it was an action packed weekend for the energetic young driver. Being as the circuit is only an hour drive from home base, The team took the opportunity for an extra evening of 3 sessions on the Thursday before, to get setup data before the official test day. It was a wise decision.
SATURDAY - FREE PRACTICE
When the team arrived on Saturday, Deven was very much on point from the first session. With the threat of rain a constant it was very important that every dry session that could be completed was productive, as there were supposed to be mixed conditions for the race on Sunday. This was especially the case as the shortened afternoon only testing only allowed for four sessions for each category.
It was an especially strong field for the 3rd round of the championship. Many of Sweden’s top Mini60 drivers, who call other major championships their own around the country, SKCC and MKR, were making guest appearances due to the attractiveness of the venue. It was especially gratifying, then, to see The Kid going out and setting the pace in the early sessions, as he drove away from the pack and showed them where the bar would be set.
Nobody could match the outright pace Deven was showing. Internationally decorated Maximus Unt was the only one to pip Deven’s outright pace, putting in a lap or two that bettered our boy’s best by a tenth or two, but for consistent speed, Deven was on top.
In the end the rain held off through to the end of all the sessions, and only these two drivers clocked times under 58.000s. It was looking very promising for the race day tomorrow, provided that the weather didn’t throw too many spanners into the mix.
After a 3 week Summer break, the karting circus got back underway at the 4th Round of the South Sweden Kart Champions Cup in Växjö, Sweden. It is a very short track, where less than 900 meters gets you around a lap of the Hagaslätt National Karting Circuit, with very little in the way of straights, a 150m dash between turns 2 and 3 the only real place on track where there is a moment to collect yourself.
Going from one extreme to another for Deven, then, coming off of a strong performance at the Rörken Ring in Uppsala for the Swedish National Championships, which boasts the longest straight and lowest gearing of the season, to Växjö, the shortest and curviest track on the calendar.
Deven was keen to get back on track and put a marker down after the events in the Final of the National Championships, and he showed he was quick on whatever track you put in front of him.
FRIDAY - FREE PRACTICE
The weather forecast had been switching back and forth between rain and dry for Friday Saturday and Sunday, so the team didn’t really know what to expect on arrival. Especially as the Mini 60 class was rescheduled to drive on Saturday instead of Sunday for this round of the championship only. A little bit of a spanner in the mix, but it was the same for everyone, so there wasn’t much to do but get on with it. It was a rainy Thursday afternoon and evening of travel, that much we did know! Running between shops on the way back to the hotel from Deven’s traditional pre-race sushi dinner so as not to get rained on left us wondering what would be in store for the free practice day tomorrow. We didn’t really have a preference either way, just hoped that the weather would be the same for practice and race days.
Arriving at the track on Friday morning, the rain had stopped overnight, but there were still a couple of corners where the track needed to dry out a bit. It was definitely slicks, but turn 6 would be a tip toe exercise in caution for at least the first morning session.
This proved to be the case and so it was a perfect opportunity to go and experiment a little with the setup on the first run. Effectively an installation run where engine break in was completed, while gearing and front end were also confirmed.
By the time the 2nd session was underway, the track had dried out completely and Deven set about pushing the limits of grip and collecting data for analysis. He has raced here before in other categories during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, and so was able to get up to speed quickly, punching well within the top 10 of the strong international field from the get go.
BREAKING - Minardi Management sign AD Motorsport driver Deven Grabko.
The deal will see the esteemed Italian outfit join forces with the young Swedish-American racer through the end of 2024 initially. Both parties are extremely excited about the potential of the partnership. Full press release follows:
Minardi Management is pleased to welcome Deven Lewis Grabko, a Swedish-American driver born in 2011, whose race program for the 2023 season includes several highly contested Swedish championships at the national level, such as the Kart Cup West Championship, IAME Series Sweden, Swedish Kart League, South Swedish Kart Champions Cup, the Swedish National Championship and the prestigious Kristianstad Karting Club Grande Finale.
I'm really happy to have Deven join our ranks, he's a very interesting prospect. In addition to being very fast, he shows much more maturity than his age would suggest. I am sure that we will create something very interesting together. Through the end of the season, we will continue to focus on the Swedish race program he and his family together with his team have already planned for him, before our partnership started. Our goal for 2024 will be a more international program.”
~ Giovanni Minardi, Minardi Management
I am extremely grateful to have been presented with the opportunity to work with Giovanni, Dorothea and the entire Minardi Management team and organization. They are a true motorsport family, with a long history and deep roots in the industry, and it shows in their passion and knowledge of the sport.
The list of drivers they’ve got on their books is really impressive, and it is a real privilege to have my name next to theirs. Joining Minardi Management has given me a real boost, and I am so happy to start this journey with them. My dad is always telling me to give 110% every time I get in that driver’s seat, and having Giovanni at my side will just give me more motivation to do exactly that. Really can’t wait to get started!
I’ve been working so hard to accelerate my development, having so much less experience than most of the guys I race against at my age, so it feels especially great that Giovanni has recognized my potential, shown an interest in helping me take my career to the next level, and will guide me through the steps I need to take so I can maximize my growth as a driver and a person, and realize my dreams. I am super thankful for their trust and support at this early stage of my career and I am going to do everything I can to make sure their time and effort are rewarded in the future.”
It is the halfway point of the season, high Swedish Summer, and the traditional time of the year for the Swedish National Championships. Deven Grabko would make his debut on the national stage, and pit himself against the best Mini 60 drivers on offer in the country.
Second trip of the year to the Rörken Ring National Karting Circuit, which would be host to this year’s championships. A very good P4 here in April at the first round of the IAME Series Sweden is a good morale booster, but it is no guarantee of success. The track will be in a very different state mid-summer and the competition much stiffer.
Only halfway through the season and already so many ups and downs to reflect on going into the biggest race of the season. Well placed in both the Kart Cup West National Series and the Swedish Kart League, as well as the unofficial IAME Series Sweden standings, not to mention joint P1 in the Swedish Autosport Federation Western Regional rankings, progress has been steady and development in his debut season in the Mini 60 category has been well above expectations.
Now we would get a measure of where we were in our rookie season development against talented seasoned racers from all over the country and internationally as well, with no less than 7 nations being represented.
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.