OPEN GP ROUND 10: RACE REPORT
FINAL ROUND SENSATION!
Yet another eventful race and an evening of mixed emotions for the team. Going into the day, our driver Dan was tied for 6th place in the Championship, only 2 points adrift of the coveted top 5 spot set as the team's goal for only its first full season in the series. Just ahead was the tenacious and in form Jörgen Haraldsson, who was going to be a very tough nut to crack. Jonas Svanberg, equal on points with Grabko, had recovered from his shoulder injury and was back on form as well. It was going to be a tall order but the team went into the round with its game face on.
Free practice revealed that the circuit was probably in its worst race condition for possibly the entire season. Junior series support races had been held during the entire day leading up to the main event, and several incidents had left the track with a grainy residue around most of the tighter corners, and the humid weather played its part as well in making the more slippery concrete sections of the track even more lacking in grip. The entire field bemoaned the less than optimal conditions, and the times throughout the evening reflected this.
It was an even more important night for Grabko Grand Prix, as Johan Brandt, CEO of one of the team's main sponsors, Event Logic, was on hand to oversee his investment, so a good showing was of especially high priority. Having only managed a 36.331 in free practice leading up to the first qualifying session, Dan was apprehensive as he climbed into kart number 12 for his first hot session of the day. He was placed in the first qualifying group so would go out first, in essence rubbering in the track for the rest of the field. The advantage being that he would also get to run last. However, it meant he really only had one proper session to set a fast time.
Grabko is not one to back down and shy away from a challenge, however, and he showed his true meddle and grit as he went out and gave what was most probably his finest qualifying performance of the season. He went out and laid down his hammer. Despite mostly angry and frustrating chatter over the radio, Grabko laid down lap after lap of improved times, trading top spot in his qualifying group with Svensson and Voric back and forth during the entire session. This culminated in an impressive 35.654, only one tenth off of pole, out qualifying both Adriano and Daniel in the end and 0.012 off of Jacob Langer in 4th. So, a career best 5th spot on the grid for the team, and all to play for going into the feature race.
Elsewhere in the field, things didn't quite work out as planned for the crowned champion, Erkin Bour. Having suffered technical issues in the first qualifying session, he was caught out yet again as his cart overheated on him only a minute into his second attempt, and wasn't able to set a time. This meant that in order to complete the first ever perfect season in the history of the Championship, he would have to work his way up all the way through the 3 qualifying races to make it to the feature race final, a tall order even for the Team EB Karting man, who had been dominant all season. The crowd and even the entire paddock looked on in interest, wondering if he could manage to make his way up to the 1st tier grid, let alone take an historic win. Not only would it be the first perfect season in the series' history, but also the first time a driver qualified up through all the qualifying races to win the feature.
He made it through the first two races with relative ease, showing his class to win the D race by almost 19 seconds, and the C race by almost 10. However, it wasn't nearly as easy going in the B race, with competitors like Adriano Voric lining up to prevent him from going through. However, he used his Joker lap strategy well, not allowing himself to get caught behind slower traffic, and pulled off an impressive 3rd race win, back to back to back, by only 2 seconds to secure his spot in the feature race, and keep the dream of a perfect 10 win season alive.
Grabko Grand Prix found themselves lining up directly in front of the prolific driver, Dan in 5th with Lilleman Racing in 6th and Erkin taking up the final grid spot in 7th. The team were assigned kart 20 for the race, and immediately from the start the mediocre kart lived up to its tarnished reputation. Sluggish off the line, Dan was unable to make any headway at all on Scuderia Jacobi's Jacob Langer going into turn 2, and was instantly under pressure from Svensson coming down the outside going into the treacherous first hairpin. Determined to at least hold position through the first S section, Grabko took a defensive line and succeeded in keeping both Svensson and Bour behind him and kept pace with Langer ahead through the first lap, holding 5th through the first run over the start/finish line.
Despite this, the chatter over the team radio was not positive. Dan was complaining about steering feel, power unit response, and top speed, as he was able to close in on Langer ahead in the tighter sections only to lose out too much in the fast sections to make any difference, and frustration was mounting for both team and driver.
On the third lap, both Svanberg and Haraldsson dove in for their first Joker laps, leaving Dan in 3rd, and with no choice but to keep going on. Dan succeeded in keeping Svensson and Bour behind him, forcing them to make their first Joker laps in laps 4 and 5 respectively to try to get by, and then Langer made his move on lap 6. Dan decided to see if he could bear down and secure some good lap times in the clear before taking his first Joker on lap 11. He came out only just behind Svensson, but the damage had been done. The team reported in over the radio that he had come out in 7th.
Continuing the fight bravely, Dan tried to keep pace with Svensson and drove extremely well, but it just wasn't to be on the day. Kart 20 was just not up for the fight, and Dan lost a tenth or so every lap. He compounded his misery on lap 14 with a poor 2nd Joker lap, his frustrations only increasing as he came out only a bumper's breadth behind Langer, who'd had a miscue himself, resulting in Svensson squeezing by him, and moving up to 5th. A better Joker lap would most likely have seen him come out in front of the Scuderia Jacobi driver. As it was, Grabko remained 7th and with a kart not up for a straight up overtake on track, he just did his best to stay as close as possible to the rest of the field, hoping for a retirement from Svanberg or Haraldsson, and eventually crossing the line in 7th for the 4th straight race.
But the drama wasn't over yet. Team EB Karting's dream of a tenth consecutive win was seriously under threat. Going into the final round of Joker laps there were less than 5 seconds separating him from Alonso Motors' Sandberg, last year's champion. As Erkin rounded the exit of the alternative section of track, it looked like he might just pull it off. The crowd roared as the two were virtually side by side through turn 3, and exploded as Lennie just edged Bour to the apex by the skin of his teeth. For the final few laps, it was a game of cat and mouse, the Alonso Motors' driver closing the door again and again as Bour raced hard on his bumper, trying to force him into a mistake. But Lennie wasn't having any of it, and managed to hold the lead to the checkered flag, winning the race by less than two tenths of a second and denying Erkin the ultimate driving triumph of coming from last to first and winning all ten rounds of the series. Haraldsson continued his good race pace into the final round, coming in a close third behind the two leaders, with Jonas Svanberg rounding out the top 4.
The result meant that Dan wasn't able to close the gap to those two, and finished 7th overall in the Championship in the end. It was yet another race full of tension and excitement, and despite coming up just short in the end, the team is proud of what it was able to accomplish this season, and looks forward to further developing both on and off the racetrack in the coming years. This is only the beginning for Grabko Grand Prix!
In the media press conference after the race, Dan had this to say, "Yeah, you have to take things in perspective. We drove a really good race today, and showed in qualifying that we can compete and be up there with the big teams. We can blame our bad luck with kart assignments, but aside from all that, I am happy with my performance today. If I'd had a better racing machine, I feel I could have been top 4, but really we were all so even out there today, everyone could have said the same thing. Hats off to Jonas and Jörgen, they did what was required of them and I just couldn't catch them on the day. It's been a great season and I can't wait to show our fans what we've got in store for them next year. These are exciting times for us, I almost wish I could just fast forward through the summer break! We'll definitely be back and fit for fight, working hard in the off season, you've only seen the merest glimpse of what Grabko Grand Prix has in store for the future."
FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
So there you have it, folks, the exciting conclusion to the West Coast's premier electric Gokart racing series, Gokartcentralen's Open GP Championship!
The entire team would like to thank all of it followers and fans for their wonderful support throughout the season, and especially the awesome staff and officials, and everyone connected with Gokartcentralen. It really has been a pleasure being associated such a great group of people and a top class, modern facility.
Until next time, support #GrassRootsRacing, support Grabko Grand Prix!