Even in Sweden the sun shines sometimes, and as Spring begins to slowly reach even as far north as the Scandinavian peninsula, it means it is time for the outdoor racing season to begin in earnest.
Despite a cloudless sky and the sun beaming down, however, there was still a chill in the air as Winter was leaving it late, not quite willing to release its icy grip just yet as Grabko Grand Prix arrived for the first of the six rounds of Gokartcenter's 2017 Summer Cup Series.
If it wasn't warm, as least it was dry, and the long, sweeping circuit that is home to the championship was in prime condition, all things considered, and all was set for an exciting first round. Free practice would be followed by two qualifying sessions that would whittle the almost 40 strong field down to 12 for the feature final, a 10 lap race to decide the winner.
The team took part in a special one off, behind-closed-doors race simulation test as Gokartcentralen ramped up their preparations for the relaunch of the Open GP Electric Karting Championship, Sweden's premier electric karting series.
The goal was to collect as much data under proper race event conditions as possible and again it was Jonas Svanberg of Hesus Autosport who partnered with facility officials to coordinate the invitational field, full of familiar faces and a bit of nostalgia as well!
Just days after having secured its first ever series championship in the Gothenburg Gokartcenter Winter LeMans Series, the team was back in action on the other side of the country, competing in Sweden's national rental karting championship, the 2017 SRKC hosted by Mattias Andersson GP's Gokarthallen i Linköping.
The circuit itself is an indoor short track format. It is very tight, fast and demanding, with only two short 30-40m straights, one off the back of the final hairpin at turn 7 and the other directly following the 90 degree final turn 8 across the start/finish line.
With the track record being just 16.88s, there was absolutely no room for mistakes, but the little monster of a circuit did allow for two proper overtaking opportunities, the first at the turn 3 hairpin that headed into the tight and fast turns 3-6 double apex complex, and the 2nd directly following at the turn 7 hairpin that exited out onto the short back straight. Both spots required getting excellent exits from the previous track section to dive down on the inside of the respective hairpins. This made the right angle turn 1 and the double apex turn 5-6 combination especially key spots on the track.
It was always going to be a tough ask for any of the team's drivers, being complete virgins to the circuit, having never even set eyes on the facility or its layout before arriving for the FP1 session on Saturday evening. Indeed, the field was heavily weighted with local talent, drivers who've driven thousands of laps around the tough little track over their careers.
But Grabko Grand Prix is not known for backing down to a challenge, and were determined to show their meddle on a national stage. The team's free practice program was a series of testing different karts to get a feel for their different characteristics, as well as progressively pushing for times as the session continued, in addition to observing local driver techniques, racing lines, braking points, and overtaking possibilities.
In only its second year of existence, Grabko Grand Prix has secured its first series championship after winning the 6th and final round of the 2016/17 Gothenburg Gokartcentrer Winter LeMans Series.
The team was in a must win situation going into the day, leading the championship by only a single point against massively tough competitors The Team GP, lead by star driver André Palm. Grabko Grand Prix had to overcome a mid-series slump to get in this position, having only managed a 4th place finish in round two followed by a 2nd place in round three after taking the team's maiden victory in the first round of the championship.
They had done just that, winning rounds 4 and 5 under increasing pressure, as The Team GP challenged hard on their tails, never letting up and taking never worse than 2nd spot throughout the series. So the final round saw Grabko Grand Prix with only the slightest of advantages, on 47 points to The Team GP's 46.
The equation was simple. Grabko Grand Prix had to finish ahead of The Team GP to win the championship, and that most likely meant that a victory was required to ensure the title.
Daniel Svensson, a.k.a. Lilleman, represented Grabko Grand Prix at the 2017 Hesus Autosport Spring Invitational, hosted by Gokartcentralen.
The non-championship competition was organised as a testing bed for the newly delivered high output electric motors that had been long awaited by the beleaguered facility, after being forced to cancel the 2017 Open GP Electric Karting Championship due to severe overheating issues with newly updated motors. Now, after 7 months of hard work, frustration and struggle, the new power unit packages have been installed and were ready for their first real test. Grabko Grand Prix was of course on hand and eager to put the new package through its paces.
Grabko Grand Prix did what was required of them to keep the title race alive, taking the checkered flag for the second race on the trot, and setting up a tantalizing final round showdown with fellow Championship hopefuls, The Team GP.
It was a race the team needed to win if they didn't want to concede the championship to talented racers, The Team GP, and was the perfect birthday present for Grabko Grand Prix racer Daniel Svensson, who celebrated his birthday by driving a blinding race personally, and reaping the just rewards of the hard work put in during the weeks leading up to the fifth round of the Gokartcenter Winter Le Mans Series.
After a long mid-season break, The 2016-17 Gokartcenter Winter Le Mans Series was back in action for the 4th round of the endurance race championship, and Grabko Grand Prix was keen to get the second half of the season under way the same way it had the first, with another trip to the top step of the podium.
It had been tough going for the team since its maiden win in the first round, and now the team was keen on tasting the sweet nectar of victory once again. However, not all was well. In a freak accident during a routine martial arts training session, racing driver and team principal, Dan, sprained his ankle badly. The injury came less than 4 days before the 4th round race, and the verdict was no driving for 2 weeks, putting him out of contention and leaving the driving duties to the teams two Autumn signings, Erkin Bour and Daniel Svensson.
The third round of the Gokartcenter Winter Le Mans Series was a chance for the team to make up for the previous round's disappointing performance and the team came focused and determined to show what they were capable of.
However, there was a pre-race worry as Daniel Svensson injured his hand just the day before the race and went into the day nursing a sore wrist with a brace. Going into the free practice sessions he was still a question mark but luckily reported in that he was ok to race after recording a very decent 25.27 lap in the FP1 session.
In a turn of misfortune, the team was allocated kart 6 by circuit officials in the driver meeting before the race. It was the only machine that team race engineers had identified as being overtly undesirable, and as luck would have it, that was the very kart the team ended up with. One could almost feel that it wasn't going to be Grabko Grand Prix's day before qualifying even started, and this was borne out as the race day unfolded.
The internal qualifying order was established in the team's pre-race briefing, with Grabko leading off the session, followed by Svensson and then Bour on the final charge for a quick time.
Another week, another test session for Grabko Grand Prix!
This week concentration was put on trying out karts at Gokartcentralen that haven't been used yet by the team. Engineers arranged with track officials to try out karts 15 and 3 this time around.
On a day when the circuit and its karts had been subjected to an earlier layman LeMans event that had left both karts and track dirty and slippery, conditions were difficult, but the team had been encouraged by earlier test sessions during the week in which it saw new signing Erkin Bour set a new track record on the updated layout with a 35.526s lap.