TUESDAY - WEDNESDAY | FREE PRACTICE
Two full days of official practice awaited Deven as he and the team made the trek to the East Coast of Sweden. It is a super fast track, with speeds nearing 110kph in the Mini 60 down the long +400m front straight., followed by two technical sections of fast to medium speed corners that challenge the best of the drivers.
Deven showed very good initial pace, inside the top 5 in his group, but as the free practice days wore on, others seemed to be finding more pace than our man, and as Thursday’s final practice session closed, The Kid found himself just outside the top 10 in his group instead of posting times near the front.
The challenging areas for him were the 5-6-7 combo, simply called “the chicane,” and he was having trouble find a braking and entry point that he felt comfortable with to launch him through this tightest section of track. The penultimate corner, the downhill and off camber turn 13, was also an issue at turn in, and needed to be solved in order to find those final tenths of a second.
Lots of different setup changes interrupted his flow as well, but these were necessary steps in order to find what worked at the exponential rate of track evolution. The general consensus was that he just needed some more laps to hit these spots well, but there was not a lot of time left to get these in before qualifying at this point. Just one warmup session left before qualifying when it counted.
THURSDAY | QUALIFYING AND HEATS
Warm Up | 10 min
As Deven has shown in the past on several occasions, a good night’s sleep has proved a revelation, allowing him time to process the events of the previous day in a a calm and relaxed environment. In the morning, we saw a completely rejuvenated driver come flying out of the box in the morning warm up before qualifying. He found almost all the time he had been missing immediately, and was P4 in his group after the morning session, and P11 overall. Only a tenth or two more was needed in the qualifying session to secure a top 5 result in his group.
Qualifying | 10 min | P7 (Group) P13 (Overall)
Now came the first session that truly counted. Track position would be key as it would be necessary to get a good tow down the long front straight to get a lap time near the top of the timing sheets. Deven was ready. He went out a determined racing driver, in P2 after the opening salvos and ready to fight. Unfortunately track position management let him down. He found himself completely alone on track, with no hope of a tow in sight. Looking behind him he only saw slower karts that he felt could not help him along, and also felt the press of time and that he couldn’t waste precious flying laps waiting to let someone by that he could chase.
Instead he pressed on and started putting in good laps. He was hitting his marks and his times were coming down, but all alone with no tow he couldn’t make himself as slippery down the straights as those that had managed to group themselves up together. With only a couple of minutes left in the session he found himself in P7 with two tenths up to P3. An exceptional final lap effort improved his best by half a tenth, but it was not enough to climb higher in a super tight top 7 group where a tow would most likely have made all the difference.
Data doesn’t lie, and showed this to be true as The Kid was in the top 5 overall in sectors 2 and 3, but had lost out on the long straights ad fast corners of sector 1. As it was, he secured P7 in his group and a P13 overall, which put him in a solid position for the qualifying heats, where he would be P4 in group A, and start all of his heats from the 4th row of the grid, in P7.
As qualifying had been a bit of a bogey session for Dev during the first half of the season, it was a solid effort and one that would allow him to fight at the front in the qualifying heats.
Qualifying Heat A+D | 9 Laps | P7 —> P6
Finally it was time to go racing, and this is what our man, Deven, lives for - thriving in the racing environment. It would be tough as all of those around him would be gunning for a good start in the long charge down to the first 3 super fast corners.
As the lights went out, The kart ahead got a slightly bad start, bogging the engine as they were too heavy on the gas. This left an unwanted gap to the kart ahead and allowed a couple of karts on the outside to tuck in front, so he was P9 coming out of the first two corners. He made an inside move at turn 3 and was back up to P8 coming into the turn 5-6-7 chicane combination.
He made a determined move at turn 7 sticking it to the inside for P7 and then began chasing down the pair ahead fighting for 5th spot, Leo Abrahamsson and Ludwig Granqvist, who had been able to make a half second or so gap ahead.
Deven and home track specialist, Thindra Ramberg, caught the pair together within a lap and on lap three Deven made the best move of the race with a tricky feint to the outside that caused Abrahamsson to open up the corner at turn 7 again, and Deven switched back and made a smooth move down the inside again up into P5.
Unfortunately for Deven, Ramberg was able to take advantage and follow him through at turn 8, which allowed her to stay in contact with Deven as he went on his chase after the next kart ahead, the #4 of Granqvist.
It took another lap for Deven to close the gap, but when he did, he closed in at the wrong point in the track, lost momentum, and wasn’t close enough to make a move at the next passing zone. This allowed Ramberg to close back up, who then took full advantage in the second to last corner and dove down underneath Deven at turn 13. Deven decided not to press the issue and made sure there was no contact and no more momentum lost, and followed both Ramberg and Granqvist down the long front straight. Unfortunately the pass had left our man with a bad exit out of the final corner and compromised the entire long and fast first sector for him.
He was forced to spent the rest of laps 5 and 6 consolidating his P6 position to those behind before being able to concentrate on chasing the duo back down again. Now the heat was nearly over, with only 3 laps to go, and a 6 tenth gap to close.
Deven set about it well, putting in his best laps of the race and was reeling in the pair quickly. Unfortunately they were in no mood to fight each other after Ramberg had gotten by Granqvist in lap 7. In the end he was just one lap too short, crossing the line only a tenth behind Granqvist, but securing a very solid P6 in his first heat. Two more heats like this and it would be a top ten start for the Final.
Qualifying Heat A+C | 9 Laps | P7 —> P7
The second qualifying heat of the day would also be the final race of the day for the event, and so all eyes were on the 20 drivers who lined up of the Mini 60 race. The track was in prime condition and it was going to be a tough one, with a very quick C Group that boasted several very quick drivers.
They round the fins corner on the formation lap and as they came up on the yellow 25 meter line, it was unfortunately Deven who bogged down his engine slightly, a little bit too eager in the gas, and left a one kart gap ahead as they all powered down the front straight for the first time.
One of the outside line karts took immediate advantage and tucked in front of him, but he was able to maintain his P7 position through the first sector and into the chicane. All the karts in the front 7 group were fast and disciplined, and there was no obvious opportunity to make a move.
In many ways, this was The Kid’s most impressive drive of the Championship. He decided to bide his time and follow along in order to gap those behind and easily kept pace with the 5 kart group that would fight for P3 in this qualifying heat. The front group quickly managed to make a 3 second gap to P8 and felt more comfortable racing each other.
It was an exciting and tense battle as the 5 made feints and tested each other throughout, but with no actual change of positions. Deven never found his chance to make a clear move as he closed in and had visibly more pace. A bit more crafty race intelligence and he probably could have made a bid to make it through, but it seemed he always got close up to the four ahead at just the wrong spots on the race track, and couldn’t find the passing opportunity, and it became a bit of a yo-yo train.
In the end it was the 4th fastest lap of the race, missing out on 2nd fastest by only 2 hundredths of a second, and another solid result, P7, in the books.
A very positive day that saw him well within the top10 with only one heat left to go on Friday.
FRIDAY | LAST QUALIFYING HEAT
Warm Up | 10 min | P6
After a positive first day of proper racing, Deven was feeling confident and relaxed going into the final heat before the final. This showed in the way he went about the morning warm up session, where he set the 6th fastest time in his group and was only off of P4 by a couple hundredths of a second. Another good start to the morning to prepare for the final qualifying heat.
Qualifying Heat A+B | 9 Laps | P7 —> DNF
Having been drawn in the A group, which included the fastest drivers on average by default, Deven had acquitted himself very well thus far, but this would be his biggest test of the weekend to date. The B Group included the Ward Racing duo of current Swedish Champion Melvin Kalousdian as well as experienced and WSK podium decorated Maximus Unt.
It would end up being these two drivers our man Deven would end up fighting against in his abruptly interrupted final heat. Deven was right on it at the start, and luckily so were the rest of the 3 inside starters ahead of him. Unt, who was starting on the outside of the first row, found no gap to fill into until right behind The Kid, and slotted into P5 behind Deven going into turn 3, who had made his way to P4. Then Unt dove down the inside at turn 7 at the end of the chicane. Deven kept his head and answered back directly, returning the favor by making a decisive inside move at the next 180° turn 8 to take back the position immediately. As they swept through the final sector and came to the penultimate corner, Deven carried just too much speed and missed the apex, coming out wide. He was able to carry enough momentum so Unt could not take advantage there, but his exit out of the final corner was compromised despite his best efforts to smooth out the exit, and both Unt and Kalousdian were now right on his tail crossing the finish line for the first time.
Unt didn’t make the move to the inside right away, so Deven didn’t go defensive down the straight. It was a late decision by the #15 to make the move just before the turn in to the small kink that is turn 1. This unsettled our man, who got stuck on the outside, and was desperate to get back inside to prevent Kalousdian from following through, as he felt he had the pace to follow Unt and keep the current Swedish Champion at bay.
It all unravelled in an instant. The kart got a little squirrelly as Deven was out of the racing line through turn one and he almost lost the kart through the full throttle corner. He managed to keep it together and get himself between Unt and Kalousdian but now was coming into the second corner at slightly the wrong angle, forced to take the turn two apex too early. This brought him out ever so slightly wide of the proper racing line at the critical turn 3. But it was enough.
As he turned the steering wheel to turn in, the kart simply didn’t respond, and went straight on instead. Deven’s race was over in the blink of an eye. One moment dueling with two of the best young drivers in Sweden, and the next bouncing through the grass at over 80 kph.
It was a devastating blow that would transform the weekend. Deven was beside himself with frustration as he knew the consequences. He was on for a top ten start in the Final, and all he needed to do was get a decent result in this final qualifying heat.
As it was, he would now have the much more difficult task of fighting up from the middle of the 36 strong field that would make the final. It would be a P19 start, and getting back into the top 10 would be an uphill battle - but it was also a challenge that our driver was fully up for.
SATURDAY | NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
Warm Up | 10 min | P15
The weather was surprisingly stable the entire 5 day stretch of the championship, and Saturday was no exception. This had allowed a stable tire strategy and plenty of data on tire behavior as well. The decision was made to run in the last set of new race tires before the Final, during the Warm Up.
This session was also different in that now it was only the finalists who would go out onto the track. In the Mini 60 category this actually meant a larger group of karts on the track than in the previous warm up sessions. Deven ended up mostly caught in traffic. He got a fair good amount of overtaking practice as he passed kart after kart trying to get through the field for a lap. In the end he was never really able to make himself a nice pocket to get in any quick laps. Despite this he managed a P15 on the essentially meaningless time sheets, and was able to show he was quicker than the majority of the field despite the P15 ranking. It bode well for the Final after the disappointment of the previous day’s DNF in the last heat.
Final | 15 Laps | P19 —> DNF
Deven was feeling good, relaxed, and up for the challenge. Joking with his teammates and helping out the mechanics in other categories, he showed confidence in himself in the lead up. During the driver parade, he actually took the microphone from the MC and spoke the loudest and clearest of all the Mini 60 drivers, also receiving the largest applause from the completely filled grandstands.
On the starting grid, as his mechanic, Hugo Holm, went through his final instructions, he had the look in his eyes that he gets when he is really on it. The time ticked away and the engines started. Deven got a clean getaway and took the planned dual formation laps well, cleaning off his tires well and when they came around the final corner, the entire inside line through to Deven made a perfect start, advancing in unison from the outside starters as the lights went out and the race was on. It was total and utter chaos. All the outside starters wanted in and several of the inside starts needed to escape the train to continue to advance. Karts were darting in and out back and forth vying for position. Deven found himself having to jump to the outside as he was quicker than the inside train line. It seemed he was up 7 places at turn one and already knocking on the top ten door.
Then ultimate disaster struck. Deven had somehow found himself up on the back of his teammate, Jonathan Landström, who had started from the 8th grid spot, and who also found himself in a kart sandwich, being bumped around, and unable to do anything more than survive. Suddenly he and the karts around him were forced to uncharacteristically brake early to make the normally ultra-fast turn two corner. Deven could not have anticipated this at all, and was taken completely by surprise. His momentum carried him right into the back of Landström’s left rear bumper at full speed, and at just the wrong time and angle.
The impact launched him out into the marbles in a millisecond, before he had any chance to react. Somehow, he managed to get the kart to react enough so that he was only out into the gras a few meters. Unfortunately he had come to a stop and his engine had died…
…Start button. Throttle. No fire. Start button. Throttle. No fire. Cover the intake hole. Start Button. Throttle. No fire. Cover the intake hole. Throttle. No fire. Pinch the fuel line. Start button. Hold throttle… hold throttle… hold throttle… hold throttle… FIRE!!!
“It was the longest 30 seconds of my life…” this was how Deven described his frantic efforts to get the engine to fire back up. The engine had finally fired up again, and Deven started the long and slow creep forward that is the trademark of the category before the engine came into its rev range and power was applied.
He was now over half a lap behind from the leaders and it was a gutting experience as he came around the last turn only to receive the blue and red flags signaling him to come off the track due to the danger of being lapped in the final. It was all over almost before it even started.
It was such a heart breaking end to such an otherwise positive week. Our driver had shown true pace at the pointy end of a field of the top drivers in the country, and it was a shame that he wasn’t able to show his speed and credentials in the final.
But what a week it was. So many positives to take from his impressive drives during the first day of heat racing, and the development curve of his driving continues to impress his mechanics, engine suppliers, coaches, and team principle.
I am just so angry and sad that I didn’t get to show my speed today. I was really feeling good and knew I had the pace to make towards the front. The karts ahead decided that bumper cars was a good idea and I had zero chance to react at full speed into the corner. This one is going to sting for a while, and now I just wish I didn’t have 3 weeks to my next race. I just want to get out there and race again right now! I mean this whole week has been awesome. I have learned so much and was just getting quicker and quicker with every session. I really want to thank my team AD Motorsport, especially Alex (Dahlberg) and Hugo (Holm) who was such a great coach and mechanic. I am going to come back from this super hard, that I can promise you!” ~ Deven Grabko, Race Driver
Obviously we feel for him (Deven). He produced a superb Thursday where he really raised some eyebrows across the grid with his race pace. We’re really proud of him for that. Growth both mentally and with technique and application has been the name of the game for him this year, and now halfway through the season things are starting to come together for The Kid. He really has applied himself and he deserved far more than he got from the final. 14 laps more to be exact. He is a resilient young man, though, and will bounce back from this. It is one race in a hopefully career long journey, and this won’t be the last time he gets an opportunity at a big occasion like this one. Just want to say a special thanks to Peter Ensgård, Marcus Landström, Alex Dahlberg, and the whole AD Motorsport team, as well as Mick Panigada and the Energy Corse Racing Karts team for the beautiful chassis and spiritual support from afar. Such a great environment for Deven to develop in, like a second home.” ~ Dan Grabko, Team Principal, Grabko GP.
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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Photos by Mayan Images Media, Nils Lilja Racing (Final), copyright Grabko GP, Mayan Images Media, and Nils Lilja Racing