As previously reported, the team took part as a guest entry in the 2nd round of the Gothenburg Gokart Center Summer Cup. While meant purely as a training exercise, it gave the fledgling team it's first competitive taste of outdoor fossil fuel karting. The 1.01 km, 11 turn circuit combines an extremely long front straight with a fast mid-sector and a tight technical final section of track, allowing for several good overtaking spots and a choice of a few different racing lines through the flowing middle section of the track.
With several familiar faces present from Grabko Grand Prix's main focus, The Gokartcentralen Open GP Electric Karting Championship, also competing in the series, such as Adde Motorsport, EB Karting, Lilleman Racing, Modin Motorsport, and Haraldsson GP just to name a few, the team at least felt a familiarity in the pit lane in the build up to the first qualifying session.
Due to tight support race scheduling before this round of the championship, there were no free practice sessions prior to qualifying, so for Dan, it was straight into the deep end, with his first outing on this circuit in three years also being his first competitive drive on it as well!
The inexperience showed as well. On his first hot lap of the Q1 session, Grabko came into the turn 8 hairpin fractionally off the racing line and lost the back end during braking, spinning his kart, number 16. The rest of the qualifying run was spent feeling out the grip levels at a more comfortable pace and slowly finding the racing lines and braking points he felt comfortable with. After the session was complete, Dan came in with a 59.213, a time which put him 1.5 seconds off the pace set by fellow Open GP series driver, Lilleman Racing's Daniel Svensson, who put up a 57.714 after the first round of qualifying.
After that first run, with times being very tight all the way through the field, Grabko Grand Prix found itself in a position to not only miss out on the A-Final group but also being pipped by less than 0.020 seconds for a place in the B-Final, and had everything to do going into the second qualifying run.
However, it just wasn't going to be the rookie team's day. Again on the first flying lap, Dan's luck completely left him. Our driver was simply a passenger as he got sucked into an incident from the get go. Grabko was closely following the racing machine in front of him going into the first turn 3 hairpin, when its driver lost control and spun, leaving no time to react. Dan got caught up in the crash, barreling into the back of the sideways kart in front.
After getting back underway and doing his very best to put the incident behind him and get on with trying to improve his time and making it into the feature A-Final, to the team's dismay kart 6 began to develop engine temperature issues only a few laps later. The engine began going into limp mode down the front straight and during the long, fast corners of the middle section of the track, cutting power and costing the team several precious tenths every lap. In the end, the team was forced to bring the kart in a lap early, and despite feeling much better about finding a racing line he could drive and zeroing in on his braking points, Dan was only able to manage an improvement of 0.052 over his Q1 time, having to settle for a 59.161 final qualifying time as he ruefully watched track officials roll the crippled number 6 machine into the garage for repairs.
As expected, the time was not nearly good enough to put the team in the feature race, and in the end Dan was even pipped by only a few thousandths of a second for the final spot in the B-Final. So the team had the C-Final to look forward to, with the only real positive being that it put Grabko Grand Prix on the front row for the 3rd tier race, so the opportunity to qualify in to the B-Final was there for the taking.
Dan found himself surrounded on the starting grid by more familiar faces, with Scuderia Anders Gokart's Anders Karlsson sharing the front row with him and directly behind in 3rd, Damir Li of Li Squadra da Corsa aiming to chase them both down at the start.
Unused to the flag waving start used in the series, Dan was fractionally hesitant getting off the line and as a result lost out on the inside line to Anders going into the first two high speed corners and had to settle in behind him braking into the turn 3 hairpin for the first time. Karlsson held the lead for the first two laps, but Dan was on his rear bumper throughout, and on lap 3 he got a better exit out of the final turn onto the start/finish straight, and was able to get a tow and make the pass going into turn 1. The fight wasn't over however, and 1st and 2nd positions switched hands twice more in as many laps until Dan was able to finally create a small gap back to the tenacious Anders Gokart driver.
However, all was not won. The battle at the front allowed the 3rd placed Damir the opportunity to close the gap on the two front runners as well, and with only 4 laps to go, he completed a skillful move on Karlsson, who then tried to answer back immediately, and dove into the final turn 8 hairpin and lost control, spinning himself out of contention. Damir now found himself with good race pace and in a position to make an attack on Dan in the final laps.
And he did just that. Dan had a slight wobble coming out of turn 11 on the penultimate lap, and it was all the invitation Damir needed to use the long straight to his advantage. Drafting Dan down the entire stretch to good effect, he completed the pass only into turn 2, the two drivers side by side through the first of the two high speed turns, Dan trying in vain to hold his ground and track position. He tried to fight back as well, but as much as he was on Damir's rear bumper throughout the last lap, Li held his nerve and didn't make any mistakes through the final technical sector 3 and beat Dan to the finish line on the final straight by just 0.312 seconds.
So an unfortunate early exit for Grabko Grand Prix, but many lessons learned, and an overall decent maiden outing at the Torslanda circuit. Dan had this to say at the media center afterwards, "Yes, it was frustrating today. We're not used to being so far down in the pecking order anymore, and to have those technical issues compounded with that bad luck incident in Q2 didn't help our cause at all today. But you've gotta keep things in perspective. Our first race result in the Open GP Championship was even worse, so in comparison the team shouldn't be too down about what happened today. We were good enough to qualify into the B-Final as well, but I got too much wheel spin coming out of the final turn and you gotta give Damir credit for being there to take advantage. Chalk it up to my own inexperience on this track. It's just a bit sad for me personally that we won't be back here for 3 months to try again! We'll be much more competitive after a few more races under our belts here."
The C-Final wasn't the only race that gave the crowd an exciting show, however. The Feature A-Final was an incredible fight, with Erkin Bour clawing his way tooth and nail to take the checkered flag by the skin of his teeth, beating out a group of 4 other drivers by a mere 0.080 seconds who all came careening down the final straight virtually side by side, and all separated by less than 0.7 seconds. The crowd was on its feet almost the entire race as podium positions changed hands again and gain throughout the 10 lap final. It was a fascinating and gripping race to behold!
Now, the team turns its full attention to the exciting conclusion of the 2016 Gokartcentralen Open GP Electric Karting Championship in two weeks time. The 10th and final round of the championship sees the team a tantalizing 2 points out of 5th spot behind Haraldsson GP, and tied on points with Hesus Autosport. With all to do and a good fighting chance at bringing home that 5th placed spot in the West Coast's premier electric karting championship, the tension is palpable and the motivation within the team has never been higher!
Join us on Wednesday, June 6th, to see if Grabko Grand Prix can overcome all the odds and take home a top 5 spot! Free practice starts at 17:30 with the first qualifying session getting underway at 18:30 sharp. Support #GrassRootsRacing, support Grabko Grand Prix!
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