SATURDAY - FREE PRACTICE
The team has never had very much success at the Torslanda Circuit. Never really found the setup or the rhythm - and always have had mixed conditions to deal with. This would be the first fully dry race weekend at this track in the team’s short 3 year history.
So admittedly the driver did not have very high expectations for the race. Nonetheless, the preparation and the resources available were never better than they have been. Race Driver Deven Grabko and Coach/Mechanic Max Sjölander were beginning to form a strong partnership, and the support from the network provided by virtue of being part of an amazing organization like AD Motorsport was starting to bear fruit.
Driver development was accelerating with the team in place around our young driver, and despite setbacks, steady progress was being made as the work was being put in, and crucially, old habits were being cleansed from the system.
But we did mention setbacks, right? After an installation run to break in the race engine, the first run out onto the track in anger was a bit of a disaster. Odd braking points, whimsical race lines, and jerky, aggressive steering saw the pace over a second off of the home track boys who were topping the time sheets in the morning. It didn’t seem to be an issue with his foot, either, and Deven reported no extreme discomfort on the throttle application.
It was another strained atmosphere in the morning, then, as Max tore his hair out trying to figure out how to make his instructions sink in. After a proper talking to, duct tape and sharpie came out, and in a flurry of activity the lap timer screen was covered completely with instructions, the most prominent being a simple one word command: “SMOOTH!!!”
It seemed to work. After a somber mood at lunch, the afternoon runs were much more productive. So much so that the team were able to start looking at how to make up the last 1-2 tenths needed to be at the very pointy end of the grid. Having improved well over a second during the day, everyone else had seemed to hit a plateau while our man Deven just kept getting faster.
It was going to be a very interesting day on Sunday.
SUNDAY - RACE DAY
Another sunny day, a bit warmer than Saturday, the conditions would be optimal for full on hard core racing. All the data gathered from practice was put together and a final briefing was made before heading out to the pre grid for the warm up session.
Free Practice - 10min | P3
Deven’s pace was real. The home track drivers were dangerously quick on their home turf, but only 1 of them, along with class act River Nilsson in the #9 Ward Racing Tonykart, could match the AD Motorsport driver in his Energy Storm racing machine. Less than 2 tenths were in it, but there were also only 2 tenths more back to 7th spot - so it was a very tight field and the upcoming qualifying session could paint a very different picture, especially if the Kid couldn’t put together a proper qualifying lap. It has been his achilles heel so far this season. Showing monster pace in free practice but not being able to translate that to a qualifying performance when it mattered.
Qualifying - 8min | P4
This time he managed it. It was a properly hard core session. Track evolution was a big factor as the other categories went through their warm up and qualifying sessions, and it meant the track had gripped up properly now and was poised to produce a track record. The pace was blistering, 3-4 tenths faster than the warm up session. Deven was in the zone.
He went out and put down a marker on his 2nd flying lap, only a tenth off the track record that was actually set on the same lap by the local club driver, Eric Bondarov-Naperotti. It was a great banker lap, and he finally was able to put in a full circuit of the track and show his pace in a qualifying session with the timing sheets live. He had consistent pace throughout the session but some mitigating factors seemed to contribute to him not quite matching it.
Followed very closely behind by the super quick Norwegian driver, Noah Antonsen in the #533 Parolin machine, our driver may have been put off slightly by the repeated half attempts to pass into the first hairpin which may have cost him a few key hundredths of a second. It appeared the AF Racing driver was on one sprocket smaller and so was slightly quicker at the back end of the straight and through to the first hairpin at turn 2. After that point, Deven would slowly build a gap through the rest of the lap until again the last 30 meters of the straight would see Antonsen pull in again. Something to note for later in the day. In addition to this, tire pressures were probably just a bit high so his grip peaked earlier in the session compared to several other front running drivers.
In the end, Deven was only just pipped by two more quick local drivers, with the top eight split by barely 0.2 seconds. He was able to secure and maintain a 2nd row start for the qualifying heats to come. A really good opportunity to secure a much needed good result after the disappointment of the mechanical failure in the Final in round 1 at his own home track in Uddevalla.
Heat 1 - 8 laps | P4 → P12
With qualifying finally sorted properly, now it was time to move on to the next phase of the race day - the qualifying heats. These have been one of Deven’s strengths up to this point of the season, regularly climbing up through the field after a less than ideal qualifying. He would need that natural intuition to place the kart in the right spot to make his way through the starts for the two qualifying heats.
Starting on the outside of the 2nd row, he would have a long right handed turn one to navigate before jockeying for position into the first hairpin at the 180° turn 2. The real danger here would be the extra long time he would be stuck on the outside of the track while the inside line could come like a freight train through with superior track position.
Our pole sitter had a small case of the jitters and was having a hard time keeping his tempo in check as he led the field down the tram lines the first time, and another attempt was indicated to get the race going. The second formation lap was only a small improvement but this time the lights did go out and we were racing.
Stuck on the outside and not willing to give any quarter, Deven decided to hang it around the outside rather than line up the inside for turn 2. He ended up the furthest outside of a 3 wide attempt to get through the hairpin. Jack Salomonsson in the #21 machine made the furthest inside move and came through untouched and into 4th position. The #533 of Antonsen could not turn into the apex and ran into and climbed up onto Deven’s side pod a bit with fairly heavy contact. Noah lost some momentum from the incident and came out a couple of places back into 7th.
Unfortunately, our man Deven got the worst of the encounter and ran completely into the runoff area, basically having to come to a stop before getting going again and was dead last before he got to turn 3.
The rest of the race was a frantic damage limitation exercise. It was a race to see how many places could be recovered before the checkered flag in 8 laps. In the end it was 12th position he would have to settle for, and he was livid in the inspection line afterwards. In reality though, Jack had been opportunistic, and made a good move down the inside of both Deven and Noah, and Deven’s naiveté in trying to hold down the outside line at the first hairpin had cost him.
Now he would have it all to do in the 2nd Heat to try and salvage a decent starting position for the final. It was not a happy lunch break in the Grabko GP camp as the driver mulled over what could have been had he been a bit more pragmatic at the start….
Heat 2 - 8 laps | P4 → P6
The 2nd heat start was a comedy of errors. First the pole sitter again was extremely fast down the tram lines, and a 2nd attempt was indicated by the blinking yellow lights. Unfortunately the P2 starter, the #199 of Rasmus Ydrefalk, didn’t see the lights and took off like a rocket, speeding away from everyone. He didn’t realize there was a restart until he was almost to the final hairpin, and was lucky he didn’t stall out his kart waiting for the rest of the grid to catch back up into the final corner. Then it was again too racy before the 25 meter line and a 3rd formation lap was required before they finally got the lights out and were racing.
This time Deven took it very carefully, and basically gave up 3 positions going into the first hairpin to make sure he stayed out of trouble. That is one way to do it, but you won’t be gaining any momentum forward with the approach. The timid attitude was immediately discarded after the first hairpin though. Deven retook a spot back to 6th through the turn 3-4 double left combo by hugging down the inside, and ended the first lap in that position.
Jack Salomonsson's #21 kart came back in what has become a familiar adversary on track this year. A good, clean racing driver, with mutual respect between the two. He got Deven under braking at the first hairpin on lap 2, and it was back to 7th spot.
Deven maintained contact through the next few laps and he and the Ward Racing #9 of River Nilsson worked together to catch themselves back up to the lead pack again.
On lap 6 they caught 4 karts fighting ahead and in a one swoop they were both by the #99 of Naperotti, who had lost momentum defending and got caught out at the first hairpin. Again P6 at the end of the lap with 2 to go.
River made a good move under braking again at the turn 2 hairpin, a bit of a bogey corner for our man on the day, and it was back to 7th. Deven made a mistake out for the final corner and couldn’t get on the gas early enough because of it, and lost contact with Nilsson.
This invited Naperotti back into play, and it was a last lap showdown between Deven and Naperotti for 7th. The #99 struck first, again getting our man at the turn 2 hairpin, but this time Deven was having none of it. He planted it down the inside and got a mini little run on his friend going into the next left handed double 3 and 4 combo, and stuck it through, getting a decent exit to retake the position.
From there he was able to create a small gap and finished out the race crossing the line in P7. Ydrefalk would get a 10s false start penalty for his shenanigans at the 1st restart which promoted Deven to 6th spot.
A better performance but there was a tenth or two lacking from the outright race pace to fight at the front. Also it seemed the Kid was too vulnerable going into the first hairpin where he seemed to be running out of gear before the braking zone, inviting attack from behind. Some work would have to be done.
Final - 12 laps | P10 → P3
In the intervening period between the end of the 2nd heat and the Feature Final race, there was a lot of mulling over what to do and how to do it. We’d been getting mugged a lot in the braking zone at the turn 2 hairpin, and losing out at the very end of the main straight. The kart also seemed to be a bit heavy out of the corners. Gripping up a bit too much.
Luckily for us, the team has an international support network only a phone call away. With the main contingent of AD Motorsport on the other side of the country in Stockholm racing Rotax Max Challenge with the senior karts, we were on the line with Mr. Dahlberg himself to figure it out. Also on hand making a very welcome cameo appearance was Mr. Kevin Appelkvist, one of the best young mechanics in Scandinavia, who was taking in the spectacle that is the Kart Cup West Championship as a spectator this weekend. He dropped into the tent with some helpful insight and even provided special parts from his own personal stock, and assisted in turning some wrenches to help set it all up.
Starting again from the outside, this time back in row 5, it was going to be a case of getting your nose in where you could and being aggressive to place the kart down the inside of the turn 2 hairpin.
The start went off at the first time of asking and they were racing. Two rows ahead into the turn in point at the first corner, there was suddenly a kart flying through the air. It was the Norwegian Noah Antonsen who was very lucky not to have flipped after getting up onto the rear wheel of Salomonsson in a slight misjudgment of the centerina effect going into the slight bend. The kart launched up sideways and luckily righted itself on hitting the ground again, but Antonsen was out, sliding first sideways, then backwards and all the way through the tire barrier.
For our man Deven, he was lucky enough to be in a position to take advantage. He was far enough back from the incident to not have to make any evasive manoeuvres and thus got a small jump on a couple of the karts just ahead of him. As it was he was 7th into the first hairpin, and could set about his race from there.
The adjustments made by the team with the expert insight and assistance given were spot on in the end, and it was a much racier machine that Deven was able to pilot through the long Feature Final Race. He was launching out of the corners again, and had an advantage at both the end of the long front straight as well as into the braking zone at the 2nd corner. The tables had turned.
After a brief skirmish with pole sitter Naperotti on lap one where they swapped positions at turn 4 and Deven came back at the slightly banked turn 6, where he had found a slightly tighter line than the rest making overtaking here simple for him, he set his sights on the Kart Cup West Round One winner, the #94 of Hugo Eklund. As they crossed the line to end the first lap, Deven was gaining on him. He closed up at turn 2 and got a very good exit and run down to the turn 3-4 combination, where he stuck in to the inside and made the move.
Now in P6, he could feel the pace in the racing machine and was hungry for more. Next up the road was Abelmann, who was running a strong final to that point, looking more pacy than he had all day.
As they came down to the turn 2 hairpin again, yellow flags were flashing and Deven had to let off slightly to not make a passing move again at the 3-4 combo or the turn 6 banked corner before he got the green again. Fellow Uddevalla Karting Club member, the #79 of Alex Karlsson, had been forced to retire due to mechanical issues. Bad luck for him, and even so for Deven, who lost some momentum and had to take an extra lap to get past his pal Abelmann.
So as they crossed the line to start lap 4, the front group of 4 karts had pulled a gap ahead of the next group of 4 that our driver was 2nd in line in at that moment. The time to pass was now if there was any hope of catching the lead pack.
Getting a good run on the #13 out of turn 2, Deven wasn’t quite close enough to get him at the turn 3-4 double apex, but was pushing up against his bumper through the turn 5 kink into turn 6. His naturally tighter line here made it a breeze to sweep by and now the hunt was on to get up to the lead pack.
Unfortunately, that lead group had been able to build a 2 second gap in the intervening laps, and it was going to be a big ask for Deven to overcome it. For the next few laps, Deven matched their pace and more, gaining a tenth here and there, on all of them ahead, but it wouldn’t be enough unless he could pull a rabbit out of his hat - his pace was such that he easily gapped the rest of the field behind and could focus his full attention forward on the lead 4 karts ahead. The problem was that he was all alone with no help to team up with to make a charge.
What he needed was for the leaders to start fighting with each other. Unfortunately they were all smart enough to hold off until the last couple of laps. Then though, it all went off. At lap ten, Deven was just under 2 seconds behind. The #9 Ward Racing driver, River Nilsson, made an attack on the #56 of Frykberg, who went wide at turn 4 as a result. Nilsson would be judged to have been too tough on the move and would get a 5s penalty for unfair driving. Very few others saw it that way, but the race director was firm and the penalty stood after the race. The jostling meant Deven was able to edge closer, putting in quick and consistent times in the final laps. At the end of lap 11 the gap was down to 1.6s with just one lap to go.
The #114 of local Gothenburg pilot Simon Karassas went off at turn 4 with a broken front wheel bearing as the top 5 were going through the final hairpin on the penultimate lap. As they charged down the front straight on the final lap, Deven could sense the opportunity might come to him and he redoubled his focus. He was nudging closer and closer and if he could just get within a second of them, he might be able to get himself involved. The yellow flag was flashing as they came out of the exit of the turn 2 hairpin for the final time. Alexander Frykberg, who had fallen back to 4th after his encounter with Nilsson on the previous lap, had gotten a great exit, and had already committed to an inside move on the #121 of Leo Abrahamsson to take back 3rd position, and he made the overtake into turn 3, just past the flag posting, and thus made his overtake under yellow flag conditions. It was a serious offense that meant an immediate disqualification as a consequence - a tough blow for the Ward Racing driver, but unfortunately for him there was nothing to be done but take it.
With the final laps of chaos, and none of the drivers aware of course that two of the top five would be penalized, it was hard racing to the end. Deven pushed hard and came up just short, not quite being able to get within that magical 1s that could have latched him onto the fight at the front out of the final corner. In the end the gap was 1.2s as they took the checkered flag, a strong 5th position on track and fastest driver on the circuit during the final 3rd of the race.
With the penalties to Nilsson and Frykberg ahead, it meant it had been a podium performance in the Feature Final and one that the team and driver could be very satisfied with. Deven would be elevated to 3rd and take his spot on the rostrum! Finally coming to Gothenburg and getting a result was a proud moment for everyone involved, not least the driver. His fist pumps as he crossed the checkered flag spoke volumes.
Another weekend where Deven showed excellent pace right at the top of the field during free practice, but this time he was able to convert that pace into real results on race day. It was a testament to his development curve and the efforts of the team in place around him that he was able to produce a qualifying lap and make his way through the race day to finish on the podium when it counted, in the Final. It was a much needed result to boost confidence and help take development to the next level as the Swedish National Championships approach in July.
The results of the day also were a much needed boost for the Kart Cup West Driver Standings, where Deven launched himself back into 3rd spot to take some small revenge after his motor failure disaster in Round 1 in Uddevalla that saw him floundering in 9th position. He is also now joint top of the Swedish Autosport Western Regional Championship after the weekend results, equal on points with Falkenberg Motorklubb racer Olivia Erntsson after two rounds of the series. So all in all a very positive weekend for the team!
Taking a step back it is an extremely proud moment to see the driver development here. Max has been excellent on the driving side, even if he has been pulling his hair out at times, and I think we might be seeing the forging of a great partnership here. We’re really fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a champion like him. Alex Dahlberg and AD Motorsport have been a revelation for the team to be associated with and there is a lot of love and positive energy in the organization. When you have the team principal across the other side of the country making sure everything is optimized for us going into the final, you know you have hit the jackpot. And what can I say about Kevin Appelkvist!? The man basically materialized out of nowhere, assessed the situation after consulting Max and Deven, and then runs off to his car to get some parts, and makes an invaluable contribution to our success in the Final. What a guy!”
We knew it would be a challenger this weekend for Dev, and a real test of his progress thus far in such a strong start field. He showed his potential today, and we are proud of his progress. Feel there is much more to come from him going forward, especially now that we have a really good setup around him. Was great to follow him from afar today and be able to contribute in a small way to his success in the Final, even if we were on the other side of the country with the Seniors this weekend.
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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