GOKARTCENTER SUMMER CUP ROUND 6
It was a dark and stormy night...
But, unfortunately it wasn't stormy enough. Rain earlier in the day failed to last past early afternoon, a disappointment for most of the fans and about half the driver field, for which the prospect of wet race conditions was an appetizing one. They would have to settle for a couple of puddles at the end of the long front straight, leading into the entry of the flat out turn 1.
In the team's final pre-season outing before the start of the Gokartcentralen Open GP Electric Gokart Championship, Grabko Grand Prix made another guest entry in the Team 13 Gothenburg Gokartcenter Summer Cup, this time in the decisive 6th and last round of the 2016 series.
Continuing to develop their networking partnerships, the young team again travelled with top outfit EB Karting, who were fighting for a top 3 finish in the competition despite having missed the July round of the series.
The series officials had moved the time of the race up an hour, taking into account the rapidly decreasing daylight hours as Fall truly had arrived in western Sweden. So 4:30pm was set for the drivers meeting, with a scheduled 5:00pm start for the first session of qualifying.
Unfortunately, technical difficulties with the assignment of the karts and arrangement of the sessions saw a 30 minute delay to the start of qualifying. Track officials were forced to merge the scheduled two 8 minute sessions into one longer 16 minute session in order to gain back some of the time lost in the technical mix up.
Dan had originally been assigned karts 6 and 13 for his two qualifying sessions, and had thought this was going to be a good omen due to drawing quality machines in both Q1 and Q2. However, the rescheduling meant that he lost those assignments and the revised scheduling meant that the team would have to qualify with an unknown quantity in kart 2 instead.
Grabko had been assigned to the third qualifying group, whilst favorite for pole, Erkin Bour, had been drawn in the second qualifying group, and another familiar face, Daniel Svensson of Lilleman Racing, was out in the first. Track conditions were much colder than the previous round, meaning it would take longer to warm up cold tires, meaning that the first qualifying group would be at a general disadvantage, effectively having to warm up the karts for the following two groups. This became evident looking at the Lilleman Racing driver's qualifying result in the first group. Finishing with a 58.45 best lap, it would most likely be enough to get into the feature race, but didn't reflect a time that the skilled driver was really capable of.
Bour drew well, and made the most of it, despite his kart not being used in the first qualifying heat and being forced to spend his first few laps getting heat into the tires. He set the pace with a 57.83 that in the end was just too fast for anyone to match on the day. Dan's session was marked by frustration and inexperience. Kart 2 had somehow not been drawn by any other driver previously so had sat cold in the pits during the first two heats. The Grabko Grand Prix driver fought threw the first 4 laps of the session, managing to surround himself with a small cluster of drivers doing decent lap times, and squeezed out a 58.77 lap in the gusty conditions, trying to use the other drivers to his advantage in the long looping sections directly into the wind as well as down the start finish straight. Unfortunately, he was just a bit quicker than those around him, so was forced to push out on his own, and wasn't able to improve on his early fast lap for the rest of the extended single qualifying session.
He ended the heat in 4th position in the group and 16th overall. In any other round of the series it would have been good enough to qualify for the feature race, but on this day, due to reduced entries, it only saw him line up 4th on the grid in the B Final, alongside WIlliam Lundin, who failed to qualify for the feature despite being the victor in the previous round.
The team couldn't have too many complaints about the result. If there was anything to be less positive about, it was that the qualifying time of 58.77 was exactly the same time, to the hundredth of a second, that the team had managed in the previous round. However, given the much more difficult conditions, matching the previous time could be seen as a positive instead of a lack of development and improvement, especially considering that the pole time was almost 0.2 seconds slower than compared with the August round of the competition.
So Grabko Grand Prix saw themselves lining up on the 2nd row of the grid for the B Final, reflecting on the fact that at their first time out, they didn't even qualify for the 2nd tier race, and now had an outside chance to win it. In the end, however, it wasn't meant to be, as an eventful and exciting race saw several key incidents which upon reflection, would have been dealt with differently if the driver had them to do over again. It is all about gaining experience and developing as a racing driver however, and if we know Dan, he will take the lessons learned and make himself a better driver because of it.
The race started off well enough. Despite a bogged down start, Grabko was able to maintain his 4th position through turns 1 and 2, and briefly take 3rd using his track position to advantage gaining the inside line to the turn 3 hairpin. However, the top four were in a tight pack and Dan was forced to seed the inside line at the next corner and was back in 4th position threw the fast turns 5 and 6 leading into the wide 180 degree turn 7. That was how the first lap ended. As the race developed, Dan was instructed to wait back in order to assess the pace of the the rest of the lead pack.
That only lasted a lap however, before baser instincts took over, for better or worse. As Grabko closed in on the 3rd placed kart ahead, he made a move from very deep going into the final hairpin at turn 8, making contact with his opponent as they rounded the corner side by side. As a result, both drivers lost a bit of momentum, inviting the chasing pack behind with an opportunity to close in. The fight for 3rd continued around the last turns 9 and 10, with Dan getting a draft just in behind the man ahead down the start finish straight.
However, the kart just wasn't strong enough to get a clean overtake into turn 1 and the Grabko Grand Prix driver was forced to give way in the crucial turn 1 and 2 combination, and lost contact while the pack behind caught up completely. Now, instead of fighting for 3rd, he found himself having to defend his 4th place position.
This continued through to the final laps, with Dan's decision making and race craft letting him down again as he allowed himself to get into a scrap on track for positions, and lost out on 4th place as well, succumbing in the end on the last lap to 6th as well.
It wasn't exactly what either he or the team had envisioned at the start. In the post race press conference, Dan was contemplative, "Even though we got the best result here for the team to date, I feel like I really had the potential for more. I was far too aggressive too early in the race. Had I been more patient and worked with the other (3rd place) driver, we probably could have caught the leaders and had an exciting 4-way race for the win. Instead I tried to get by too early, made some bad decisions and ended up in a scrap the whole race, slowing not only myself down, but also those around me. Kart racing is a unique animal and my previous GT experience got in the way of that. It is a learning process, and I just have to get better and stronger, learn from this and bring that experience into the Championship proper."
Meanwhile the Summer Cup Championship was up for grabs in the feature race, as EB Karting's Erik Bour was attempting to get himself up to 2nd in the overall standings, despite having missed one round of the competition. It wasn't going to be easy, as he not only needed to win, but other results needed to go his way if he wasn't going to have to settle for third step on the podium. Compounding his difficulties, he had series leader André Palm lining up beside him on the front row of the grid, and the man just in front of him, the solid and consistent Mikael Thoors, only a few places back. Thoors would have to finish 6th or better to maintain his 2nd position overall over the EB Karting driver.
It was a tense affair. Bour and Palm fought for the lead from lights out all the way to the checkered flag, with some really exciting and close racing, kept very clean and competitive. During two instances in the race, if it had ended at that moment, Erkin would have done it. In fact he thought he had as he cross the finish line and took the win, having received radio transmissions that Thoors was down in 7th. Unfortunately for the EB Karting man, but equally elating for Mikael, he crossed the line in 4th to secure his 2nd place in the Summer Cup Championship.
So another exciting evening of racing, and an excellent warm up for the upcoming Open GP Electric Gokart Championship, hosted by Gokartcentralen! Round 1 is only days away, and all the teams are gearing up for what should be yet another heart pumping thrill ride of a championship!
Many thanks to all the stewards, staff, and participants of the 2016 Team 13 Gothenburg Gokartcenter Summer Cup for making it a truly enjoyable racing experience. The team look forward to participating again next year!
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